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1.14. Chinese Truthfulness.

I have now cited evidence to prove that the Chinese generally are highly endowed with the good qualities of Industry, Intelligence, Honesty, Sobriety, Peacefulness, Patience, Cheerfulness, Gratitude, Philanthropy, and Politeness; certainly ten of the chief qualities which go to make good and perfect human beings. I know that many bad qualities are ascribed to them, one of which is that they are a nation of liars. Many writers state or imply this, but others again say that this is too sweeping an assertion, although their excessive politeness and wish to please, and their hatred of quarrels tempt them into telling many half-innocent lies. But, we do the same. For instance, it has been said that there are more lies told in the six short words, “I am glad to see you,” than in any other sentence in the English language. But all the Chinese do not tell lies any more than all the inhabitants of Christendom do.

The Rev. E. J. Dukes, in his “Everyday Life in China,” says: “My first experience with the Chinese trader taught me a severe lesson for which I have often been very thankful. On reaching my station, I was early assured by an acquaintance that the Chinese were a nation of liars, that every shopkeeper was a swindler by a law of nature, and that there was no exception to the rule. A day or two after I sent to ask a tradesman to submit certain specimens of his art to my inspection. He brought them, wrapped up in a large blue handkerchief. I was surprised at the large price, and jumped to the conclusion that this was one of those universal swindlers who had a lower price for the initiated. I ventured to suggest that the charge was exorbitant. We discussed the matter for a few moments, and when he saw I was firm, the goods were hastily heaped into the blue handkerchief, and the merchant was on his way home before I could realize that I was snubbed. It was a small matter, but it made me very careful and observant, and led to my forming a higher estimate of the truthfulness and integrity of those with whom I was more immediately associated.”

The Rev. R. H. Graves, D.D., in “Forty Years in China,” (1895), says—“A Chinese once remarked to me ‘Men are all alike; all want to accomplish their own ends. The only difference between Chinese and Westerns is, you seek to accomplish your ends by boldness and force, and we try to accomplish ours by cunning and duplicity.’ This remark shows the difference between Asiatic and European ideas in a nutshell. To illustrate his point he said, ‘You foreigners come here with your war vessels and extort a treaty from us; of course we try to evade it every way we can when the force is withdrawn. It is perfectly fair—cunning against force’..... Perhaps the tendency of the human mind to say what is not so is nowhere seen more clearly than in conventionalities of polite society. The Chinese have a great deal of true politeness and consideration for the feelings of others. But they often carry it too far, and have no hesitation in sacrificing the truth to appear to be polite. Many of the ordinary forms of politeness and hospitality are mere shams; as when the Chinaman complained of the incivility of a visitor, saying, ‘I was polite enough to ask him to dinner, and he was polite enough to decline the invitation.’ You are always invited to remain for a meal, but no one is expected to accept the invitation, unless he really is a friend from abroad. I do not mean to say that this form of untruthfulness is peculiar to China, but only that it abounds there.”—Just so. How many hundreds of millions of times in Christendom have visitors been asked to stay to tea or dinner when the inviter hopes they won't but yet pays them the false or empty compliment of asking them.

As before remarked, this question of lying is only one of degree. We call the Chinese a nation of liars; judged by the same rule all the nations of the world are nations of liars. Paul called the Cretans a nation of liars; Epimenides called the Thebans a nation of liars; and David was forced to say that all men are liars; and the old Scotch Clergyman said, “Friend David was right.”

True, the Chinaman lies on an average more than we do. Every thousand Chinamen throughout China may tell a million lies in a year, but probably every thousand men throughout Christendom tell a quarter of a million every year; it is only a question of degree or number, not of kind. They are men and we are men; they lie and we lie. Like many others I have thought a great deal on this unfortunate vice of lying which prevails amongst us, and shall take a hint from this of enlarging upon it in another book to be entitled, “The Lies We Tell and the Beauty of Truth.” The following is a synopsis of its contents:—White or Little lies—Half lies—Insinuating lies—Equivocating lies—Ambiguous lies—Lies of Hypocrisy—Lies of Omission or Mental Reservation—Slanderous lies—Spiteful lies—Revengeful lies—Backbiting lies—Lies of Excuse—Lies of Sham-sickness —Lies of Promise—Lies of Convenience—Lies of Flattery—Lies of Politeness—Lies of Welcome—Lies of Appearance—Lies of the Muddle-headed—Lies of the Weak—Lies of Kindness—Acting lies—Thoughtless and Careless liars— Habitual liars. If we come to literature, some Historians—some Biographers—some Poets—some Essayists—some Smart Writers—some Journalists—some Editors—some Reporters—some Critics—some Transcribers—some Translators—some Preachers—some Lecturers—some Debaters—some Tombstones tell lies. All Fabulists—all Writers of Wonderful Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales—all Jokers and Funny Writers and Romancers—all Impersonators and Interpolators and Plagiarists tell some lies. Finally, the books and literature of Christendom, without reckoning those of China, while they contain much truth, contain also thousands of millions of lies. In noticing the lies told in everyday life, we may begin with those of the family. Some Sweethearts—some Husbands —some Wives—some Parents—some Children—some School-boys and girls—some Servants tell lies. Next with the Government: some Princes—some Courtiers—some politicians —some Diplomats tell lies. If we turn to law, some Plaintiffs —some Defendants—some Debtors—some Criminals— Witnesses—some Lawyers tell lies. We might go on through the whole of the trades and callings, and show that the Auctioneer—the Commission Agent—the Advertising Agent—the Land Agent—the Share Broker—the Book Canvasser—the Hawker—the Horse Dealer—the Quack-Medicine Advertiser and the Cheap Jack, most of them tell many lies. And we


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might also enumerate a hundred other trades and callings in our midst in which lies are told more or less, but the variety, by its great number, gets monotonous. It will suffice to say that unfortunately lying is more or less prevalent everywhere, in every trade, calling, and profession, and amongst all sorts and conditions of men. I shall also give a few thoughts and opinions of great men about the beauty, and wisdom, and inestimable worth of truth.

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