IT is now nearly one hundred and fifty years since Lien Chi Altangi, a mandarin of Honan, lived in Oliver Goldsmith’s brain, and wrote letters from London to his friend Fum Hoam in Pekin. Altangi was exceptionally fortunate in his London residence. No mandarin’s yamen in all the Eighteen Provinces was ever half so splendid as were the halls of the mind where lived Dr. Primrose and The Traveller. When Altangi was writing letters the West knew even less of China than it does today. Goldsmith had never visited the country of Fum Hoam. In the time of Goldsmith and of Altangi the arrogance of patriotism and the bitterness of bigotry were more potent forces in the world than now. Yet in those stubborn years when England was bullying her colonies and when Boswell was toadying to Johnson, Altangi, from that serene height of mind that “like some tall cliff . . . midway leaves the storm,” wrote of Georgian British civilization from a Chinaman’s point of view.
The Powers were then so busy in fighting among themselves that China had not yet become a factor in world politics. Europe had not awakened to a practical interest in Cathay. It may have been that Goldsmith’s only intention in writing The Citizen of the World was to satirize the narrowness of the England in which he lived. But whatever his motive, the letters of imaginary Altangi are to-day the most eloquent plea in the English language for fair play for the Chinese, — their civilization, their institutions, and their right to think. Many times after listening to an explanation by a Chinaman of some institution of his country I have found myself mentally inquiring, —
“Whom of my acquaintances have I heard speak in a similar vein before ? ” And the answer was always, “Yes, my old friend Mr. Altangi.”
“When I had just quitted my native country and crossed the Chinese wall, I fancied every deviation from the customs and manners of China was a departing from Nature. But I soon perceived that the ridicule lay not in them, but in me; that I falsely condemned others for absurdity, because they happened to differ from a standard originally founded in prejudice or partiality.” So wrote Altangi in one of his first letters, as a notice to his correspondent that the writer had ceased to be only a subject of the Emperor of China, but had become in addition a citizen of the world.
This change of attitude was very exceptional for a Chinaman. In the case of Altangi it can be accounted for as the result of the environment of his London residence. But equally exceptional is it to find a Western modern who can ever for one moment forget the prejudices or partiality of his nativity when he crosses the wall that separates Chinese civilization from his own. His experience of China may be lifelong, his information of men and things may be absolutely truthful and accurate, but his point of view is never that of the people he describes. He may be a man of the world at home, but he is never a citizen of the world in China. Underlying everything that is written or spoken about the Middle Kingdom is the foregone conclusion that the Chinese way of doing everything is wrong. It may be interesting, picturesque, and unique, but it is wrong simply because it is Chinese. It is always taken for granted that a Chinaman is an inferior, and is therefore “absurd.” The thing described must always be referred to as though it were a mere idiosyncrasy. Reasons if given at all are merely foreign generalizations based on the sweeping supposition that the “absurd ” Chinaman is necessarily wrong. By good-natured men persons and things Chinese are referred to as though they constituted something in the nature of a huge joke, while men of the sterner missionary nature ascribe differences from their own standards to a persistently low state of prevailing morality, which they hope and pray may some day be elevated to a Western level by the light of Christianity. Only very rarely does any one recognize that John Chinaman is a human being, that he is a man and a brother, that God created him in his own image quite as much as he did any Christian critic; that he has always “honored his father and his mother,” and that his “days have been longer in his land ” than the days of any other man on earth; and starting from this premise ask the Chinaman “Why? ”
In writing of England, Altangi always attempted to find the reason for everything he saw about him. He criticised when he was unable to discover a proper relation between cause and effect. Altangi’s searching for reasons and his studying of causes was eminently characteristic of his Chinese mind. For every detail of Chinese government and civilization and method there is a reason distinct, clearly defined, and permanent ; a direct relation between cause and effect that is much more easy to determine than it would be in England or the United States. If asked why we preferred a certain kind of food, most of us would consider it sufficient to answer that we liked it, but this would never do for a Chinese explanation of a motive in eating. A Chinaman can explain the component elements of every bowl into which he dips his chop-sticks. He knows the relation one to another of different foods in the process of digestion, and if you care to listen to him long enough he can perhaps give you the history of the ancient experiment which resulted in the production of the food about which you have inquired. In New York and London the prevailing width and thickness of the sole of a man’s shoe are prescribed from year to year by an arbitrary fashion, for which there is no reason unless it be a restless desire for change. In China, where fashions change about once in every dynasty, the soles of shoes worn by ordinary citizens must always be of one thickness in order to be proportionately lower than the sole of a mandarin’s boot, whose wearer must always tower higher than his fellow men. These are the reasons for trifling details, but with equal clearness and precision they obtain in all the complicated relations of law and government, and it is these same causes that we so seldom hear explained either by the Chinese who have produced the results, or by some Western citizen of the world who can speak of them from Altangi’s point of view.
When, as the result of my environment on my travels through China, I was forced to ask “Why?” directly of the Chinese without the mediation of foreign trader, foreign consul, or foreign missionary, I always found that “the ridicule lay ... in me.” As the result of my encounters with reasons my prejudices to a very large extent vanished, and I began to see the Chinese in an entirely new light. I ceased to laugh at chop-sticks when I discovered that their use prevented too large mouthfuls and too rapid eating. I forgot the clumsiness of ferries when I realized that most of the rivers were too shallow to permit of any other kind of craft, and I really admired the people who could devise a boat equally capable of floating on water and of slipping over mud. Instead of ridicule I came to have a great liking for a national character that could produce the things I saw around me.
I have met foreigners who have lived in China for the greater part of their lives, and whose knowledge and appreciation of the land and the people were far less than Altangi ever obtained of London. They had never put themselves in John Chinaman’s place. They had never looked at anything from his point of view. They had never listened to his reason for anything. And these were the men who believed that nothing good could come from a Chinaman, although they knew him very well. It is like the old story of the relative advantages of being a man and a dog. The question can never be answered satisfactorily, because we shall probably never have an opportunity of hearing the dog’s side. But we could hear the Chinaman’s side. He could tell us why he thinks and acts and believes as he does if we would ask him “ Why ? ” Yet that is just what has never been done. The Black-Haired People are ridiculed and patronized and denounced, but never reasoned with, and until they are we shall continue to misjudge them just as they misjudge us.
These reasons that are the springs of action are often fallacies. Superstition and a complacent ignorance sometimes play a prominent part in them. But just as in the march of all civilizations fallacies have been overthrown only by attacking the ideas on which they were founded, so we can never hope to modernize the Chinese until we meet them on their own ground and successfully controvert their reasons.
Probably no Chinese custom or institution has been the object of more denunciation and shuddering than the practice of binding the feet of the women. Per se it undoubtedly merits all the condemnation it receives. It certainly is cruel, barbarous, and degrading. The inference usually drawn from it is that a parent who would thus deliberately cripple his daughter for life can be little less than a savage. Yet it is safe to say that of the thousands of Americans who have heard of foot-binding not one in ten has a clear idea of the Chinese reason for the torture.
For foot-binding has its reason. It is only a practical application of the theory that “woman’s sphere is the home, ” a belief that is by no means confined to China, but which in less active form prevails to a very large extent in the United States. The premise once admitted, it becomes the duty of all respectable citizens to devise some means of permanently preventing women from escaping from their sphere. Other Oriental nations who hold in a practical form the same belief as the Chinese make prisoners of their women. They hide them in their homes and compel them to appear veiled in the street. As a different means of accomplishing the same end, the Chinese make it physically impossible for a woman to walk far from home. Founded on the simple principle that every good woman’s life is spent within certain narrow limits, foot-binding has become a universal custom which can be transgressed only by the lifelong disgrace of the woman whose feet are allowed to remain in a natural condition. I firmly believe that the Chinese appreciate the cruelties of foot-binding quite as much as we do.
A woman leading a little girl passed by the inn where we were resting one afternoon. On the child’s drawn face were depicted some of the agonies which the bandages on her legs were causing her. One of the soldiers of my escort sprang up, and taking the child in his arms, carried her to her home a quarter of a mile down the road.
“It must be terrible to be a woman, ” he said to me as he reëntered the kung kwan courtyard.
Several educated men with whom I talked of the practice in Shensi agreed with me as to its cruelty. They all regretted it as a painful necessity. Their argument against its discontinuance was always, “ How else can women be made to stay at home ? ”
If, instead of merely shuddering at foot-binding and of calling the Chinese unpleasant names for persisting in the practice, the advantages of an enlightened idea of womanhood could be demonstrated to them; if the majority of parents could be persuaded that their daughters were capable of living in other spheres than home, — if the reason could be annihilated, I believe that foot-binding might decline in popularity, and might ultimately disappear. Such a course would at least be interesting as an experiment that has heretofore never been tried in attacking any Chinese institution or belief.
Although a lack of appreciation of native reasons is a fault common to all foreigners who have to do with the Chinese, none more seldom consider the Chinese answer to the “Why?” than do the missionaries.
China needs the gospel. She needs it far more than she needs anything else. Until she is truly converted to Chris tianity she can never take the place among the nations of the earth to which her great resources, her vast population, the age and civilization of her people entitle her. This fact is so obvious to any one who has come in contact with the China that lies outside of Treaty Ports and Foreign Concessions, that I am sometimes inclined to wonder why missionaries spend so much time and energy in arguing about this first premise of the proposition.
Whatever opinions a traveler through the interior provinces may hold on the question of whether or not religion is no longer essential for his own fin de siècle nation of the West, he must, it seems to me, admit that Christianity is a necessity for China. Twenty-five hundred years ago Confucius drew a complete and elaborate chart for the guidance of the race to which he belonged. The chart was intended to provide for every possible contingency that might ever arise in the life of the individual or the nation. Confucius fastened his chart on the wall and said, “Follow that.” It was a wonderfully made chart, more nearly perfect than any that modern altruist or student of ethics has ever devised. As the chart was supposed to describe every course that could be sailed with safety, the Chinese have never thought it possible to discover new continents. They have never looked at the stars or the horizon, always at the chart. It made no pretensions to the supernatural. It was essentially human and matter of fact. The chart related to the known, not to the unknown. It took little account of hopes or inclinations. It made no provision for a change of conditions either in the state or in the individual. As a result Chinese civilization has never changed. It is restrained from drifting or turning aside into dangerous channels by the Confucian chart, but it cannot and will not go forward until it recognizes a soul, until it has ideals that are not earth made, until it “seeks a country ” that is not like Shensi, eternal on earth, “but eternal in the heavens.”
It is true that China needs many other things besides Christianity. She would be greatly better off if she had railroads and clean hotels, and a knowledge of geography and post offices and factories, yet the lack of these is due not to the inability of the Chinese to provide them, but to their failure to see and appreciate their need of them. No mention of them is made in the chart by which they are steering. China has succeeded in existing almost from the beginning of the world without them; therefore they are useless. The Chinese nature is patient, and the Chinese brain is resourceful. The stories oft told in Tientsin of how native engineers, with very crude tools and comparatively little experience, repaired locomotives that the Boxers had wrecked are proof that the Chinese are capable with very little instruction of building and operating railroads. The Chinese do not build railroads because they do not want them, just as they do not want anything that would necessitate a change in their methods or customs. They lack incentive, not ability; and the spiritual element of Christianity is the only incentive that will ever make them appreciate that a chart, no matter how perfectly made, can never include all of the expanding scope of human life and endeavor.
Just because the gospel is China’s first and primary need to-day, it is lamentable that Christianity seems to be making so little progress throughout the Eighteen Provinces. Perhaps in the higher sense, that “no power is lost that ever wrought for God, ” it is not wholly correct to say that efforts to introduce Christianity into China have failed. But humanly speaking, in proportion to the amount of money, lives, and effort expended, they have apparently not met with great success. The small number of converts after one century of Protestant and three centuries of Roman Catholic endeavor is the least part of the failure of missions in China. All over the empire to-day there prevails a spirit of hatred and antagonism to Christianity so intense and so peculiar that a certain brilliant missionary in describing it has had to coin a new word. He has called the feeling of the provincial authorities of Shantung toward Christianity “Christophobia.” Usually it is specially stipulated when foreign teachers are engaged for recently organized government schools that they shall make no reference even in the remotest way to the Bible or to anything connected with it. In the gradual subsiding of the Boxer storm the one kind of foreigners warned to keep away from a troubled district are always missionaries. Except in the few places where they are numerous enough to form a community by themselves Christian converts are ostracized, boycotted, and sometimes persecuted. Tuan Fang, the former Governor of Shensi, saved the lives of all the missionaries in his province. He is regarded, by them, as more favorable to missionaries than almost any other prominent official of the government. In a recent conversation with a friend, he said: “I am glad that I did not permit murder. I know much more of missionaries now than I did before the Boxer uprising, and I am convinced that the less heed we pay to their teaching the better it will be for us. Confucius is better for China than Christ.”
While missionaries most vigorously deny anything like the failure of their work in China, they sometimes express regret at Christophobia. They most frequently account for it by saying that the Chinese hatred of Christianity is only a part of their dislike of everything foreign; that the objection to the spread of the gospel lies only in the fact that it is a foreign religion.
My own observations in Shansi and Shensi have convinced me that Chinese prejudices against foreign religion as such do not obtain to anything like the extent that missionary reports and writings would lead us to believe. In the Province of Shensi about one third of the population are Mohammedans. Only thirty years ago they rose in revolt, burned towns, and massacred thousands of helpless men, women, and children. Their attitude toward the existing dynasty has never changed. It is still their hope and prayer that a follower of the Prophet may some day sit on the dragon’s throne. Islam is essentially a foreign religion, and it is far more a menace to the peace of the country than was ever Christianity. Yet in the same province, where time and again missionaries have been expelled and their chapels destroyed, it is no more to a man’s discredit to be a Mohammedan than it would be for a British subject to be a Dissenter from the Church of England. Mohammedans have their schools and mosques. They engage in business with Confucians and Buddhists, and their lives and property are quite as secure as those of any other of the population.
Although blended with and to some extent overshadowed by Confucianism, Buddhism is one of the three great religions of China, yet Buddhism is a foreign religion. It was imported from India in 95 A. D. by the Emperor Ming Ti, who had heard of the fame of Gautama, and who had sent messengers to study his religion and to report to him on its merits. The tolerance of a Chinese who belongs to any one of the three great religions toward the other two faiths of his country is so proverbial that it is sometimes used as an argument to prove that China has no real religion of any kind. Two or three times a year a Confucian will visit a temple of his faith and leave an offering with the priest. He will then in turn visit the Buddhist and Taoist temples and make equally generous offerings on the theory that if a little religion is a good thing, more of it is better.
If the hatred of the Chinese toward Christianity is due only to a national intolerance, then it is so at variance with their conduct toward all other religions that it is only an unaccountable exception, without precedent and without reason. The chief obstacle to the spread of Christianity in China is, I believe, not any especial dislike of it as an imported religion, but a fear and an objection to certain foreign concomitants which, because of a mistaken point of view, are regarded by missionaries as essentials. Christophobia is due not only to Chinese hardness of heart, but also to the methods by which the message of “Peace on earth and good will to men ” has been presented to them.
With the hackneyed objections to missionaries I have nothing to do ; they are as cruel and unjust as they are untruthful. All of these so-called “lootings,” for which Pekin missionaries have been denounced by men on this side of the world, never enriched an individual missionary or his mission by so much as a single tael. When “officers and gentlemen,” legations’ attachés, soldiers, sailors, and foreign merchants were plundering and helping themselves to everything on which they could lay their hands during the chaotic days that followed the fall of Pekin, it is really surprising that a few missionaries did not loot more as the only means of providing food for the hundreds of starving converts dependent upon them. Equally outrageous is the charge that missionaries are as a rule men of little education and of less than average ability, who are enabled by their calling to live in China amid a luxury of surroundings that would be impossible for them in any occupation at home. In wretched little Chinese houses in the towns of Shansi and Shensi, that are visited by about one white man in two years, I have had the honor of dining with missionaries who were graduates of universities, who could have filled any pulpit, or who could have graced any assemblage in New York or London. It is true that in the educational missions in Foreign Concessions the instructors live very comfortably and sometimes even luxuriously. The institutions as at present conducted are in my opinion a very serious mistake, but the environment of the missionaries who teach in them is in no degree better than that of the humblest student. Of all the missionaries with whom I came in contact in the interior, I did not find one who was not both brave and honorable, or who would not willingly have given his life in the cause of the Christianity in which he believed. The faults of missionaries are all of the head, not of the heart.
The missionary tells the Chinese that they need the gospel above and beyond anything else, but he supplements this announcement with the idea that a Chinaman cannot be a Christian unless his Christianity finds expression in exactly the same forms and observances that it would in the land from which the missionary has emigrated. The missionary does not stop with the statement that the Chinaman is a non-believer in Christianity. He goes a step farther and calls the Chinaman a “heathen.”
From the lips of the few Englishspeaking men who are leading lives of denial and self-sacrifice in the interior of China, one must hear this word frequently used in order to fully appreciate what a heathen is.
“Heathen” is both a noun and an adjective. As a noun it means an unconverted Chinaman, of whom there are more than three hundred millions. He is a child of the Devil, on the road to perdition. All of his ancestors whom he has been taught to worship are now living in a fiery lake. Everything that he may say on do or think is a prompting of the Evil One. He is the heir to countless generations of inherited sin. He is incapable of noble aspirations or of any real goodness.
In the adjectival sense just about all of China outside of mission chapels and schools is heathen. All the worldold literature of the empire, all Confucian morality, all the beauty of the temples, even the extreme honoring of parents by their children, — all are heathen, and must receive unqualified condemnation. The conversion of a heathen to Christianity means much more than it would in the case of an American. A Chinaman must not only experience a change of heart, he must also undergo a complete revolution of opinions and sentiments. He can no longer venerate his ancestors and pray before their tablets that he may keep unsullied the honored name they have left him. It is not permitted to him to take pride in the traditional glories of palaces and gray-walled cities; he must learn the history of his country over again; he must discover that all the great sages and rulers of his country’s past are eternally lost; he must experience a constant feeling of pity if not of contempt for the civilization and government of China and for his friends and relatives who persist in remaining heathen. In other words, in order to become a Christian according to missionary standards, a Chinaman must be denationalized. In sentiment he must become a foreigner. And naturally enough his “heathen ” countrymen who still love their country and reverence their ancestors do not like the denationalizing process.
If, as is frequently the case, the process of conversion to Christianity is begun in extreme youth, the convert receives a supplementary course in denationalization in one of the large educational missions in a city on the coast. Here he learns the English language. Chop-sticks are relegated to the past, and he uses a knife and fork. He sleeps between sheets on an Americanmade spring mattress. He learns to sing hymns. He may be a godly and righteous man, but he is either an Englishman or an American; he is no longer a Chinaman. When on his graduation he returns to his native town, he is shunned and pitied and hated by his relatives and former friends. They point to him sadly as he goes on his way rejoicing and remarking, “Few there be that shall be saved. ” They shake their heads and say one to another, “That is what the missionary’s religion does for a man.”
The cause of all this denationalization is the missionary. All over China he is regarded as the man who teaches disloyalty, who turns Chinese into Americans or Englishmen, and who induces them to despise their country, and this purely Chinese reason which has been explained to me at length by more than one Chinaman I believe to be the chief cause of the hatred of Christianity in the Eighteen Provinces to-day.
But the saddest part of it is that a missionary as a rule likes to be hated. From long contact with the Chinese he knows the answer to their “Why? ” for doing everything, but their explanations, arguments, and prejudices he brushes aside as “heathen reasons,” not worthy of serious consideration. His attitude is often one of perpetual hostility to the people to whom he ministers, and it must be admitted that from his standpoint his conduct is perfectly logical. Assuming that China is heathen, for him to in any way recognize a national sentiment or custom would be for him to compromise himself with the children of the Devil. From the very nature of the case he can never see any good in the Chinese, and in return he does not expect them to see any good in him until they shall have experienced such a complete change of both heart and mind that they are really Chinese no longer. I once asked a missionary in an isolated little town what progress he was making in his work. His reply was, “Oh, of course they hate me. If it were not for the protection insured me by treaty I should have been driven out long ago, but the Lord of Hosts is on my side, and I revile them in their sin. ” There is something magnificent and even sublime in a man’s willingness to submit to a life of reviling and persecution for his faith, but that is not what a missionary is sent to China to do. His “mission ” is to “preach the gospel,” nothing more. He is not engaged to be a reformer or even a martyr. It has always seemed to me that in the observances and services of the Christian faith, the missionary rather enjoyed shocking Chinese sensibilities and ideas of propriety. A heathen’s feelings do not count for much. He has no business to be a heathen.
Perhaps the one dominating trait in Chinese character is a striving for the maintenance of dignity and self-control. The man most to be admired is he who can most successfully repress his feelings. Any extreme ebullition of joy or of sorrow or of hatred is an unpardonable breach of propriety. This is the reason why the Chinese very seldom sing. When they do it is in a subdued chanting monotone that produces an effect on the listener similar to hearing a man talking to himself. Imagine what must be the feelings of a Confucian scholar on seeing and hearing a Christian convert standing at the door of his house singing loudly Beulah Land, or Hallelujah ’t is Done. If the neighbors plead with the convert to desist, and tell him that he is disgracing his family, he only sings the louder. He must not “hide his light ” or his voice “under a bushel; ” of course not, and the missionary approvingly reminds him that “so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”
By and by some gentlemen of Boxer proclivities tear up the convert’s hymnbooks, wreck his furniture, and perhaps drive him out of town as a nuisance. Immediately the missionary communicates with the consul of his nation in the nearest Treaty Port and complains of “malicious persecution of Christians.” Things have been altogether too slow for the consul of late. He has had no opportunity of entering a “manly and vigorous protest ” with the Chinese Foreign Office for some time. He fears that the government which he represents will begin to think that he is not doing enough to “uphold the dignity of his flag.” The missionary’s communication is very gratifying to the consul. He leaves his rubber at Bridge to draw up a demand for immediate reparation for “this outrage, in the name of the Christian government I have the honor, ” etc. The members of the Chinese Foreign Office know by bitter experience that the Christian government has warships and plenty of men in khaki uniforms with quick-firing guns, and also that the Christian government has perhaps a longing for another seaport and some more “hinterland.” The Chinese Foreign Office replies to the consul’s note that they “deplore the unfortunate occurrence. ” The mandarin of the town in which the convert sang is dismissed from office in disgrace. By an indemnity tax levied on the townspeople the cost of the convert’s hymn-books and furniture is restored to him, sometimes “tenfold,” sometimes “an hundredfold. ” The convert will not be molested again. He can now shout in loud Chinese, “Sometimes a light surprises the Christian as he sings, ” to his soul’s delight. The missionary can truthfully say, “The Lord is mighty, he will prevail; ” and yet strangely enough the people of the town are praying to the idols of the temple that the missionary will go away and will stay away.
As a prerogative of their great superiority over the heathen, missionaries have a habit of interpreting the workings of Divine Providence in a way that, to say the least, is not conducive to inspiring Chinese listeners with kindly feelings toward the Christian’s Almighty. Several missionaries have told me that the opium traffic, with its horrors, was so evidently an instrument in God’s hands for the salvation of Chinese souls that it would be positively wrong for a Christian to attempt its suppression. The reasoning by which this conclusion was reached was something like this. In a town we will suppose of 20,000 inhabitants, about 2000 are hopeless slaves of the opium habit, and 500 are in the last stages of rags and degradation. Of the 500 perhaps twenty, having tried every other available remedy, will in desperation, as a last resort, take refuge in a missionary opium cure. Here their spiritual needs will be ministered to. During their course of treatment no effort will be spared to convert them to Christianity. Of the twenty victims thus admitted to the refuge in the course of a year perhaps half that number will leave the institution not only cured, but with “saved souls” as well. “Therefore,” explains the missionary, “it is plain that the opium curse was sent upon the 2000 in order that the ten might have eternal life.” I am not a theologian, and I should make sad work of it were I to attempt to combat this reasoning on theological grounds; but I know that if I were a Chinaman urged to believe in a God who would wither and degrade and destroy the minds and bodies of 2000 of his own creatures for the sake of the souls of ten, no better than the rest, I should gladly return to my painted idols who were never guilty of such a crime.
The West depends very largely upon missionary literature for its knowledge of China. A missionary’s statements are almost without exception truthful and accurate and painstaking, but in his writing, as in his teaching, the bias of the missionary’s mind manifests itself in his fondness for pointing a “moral and adorning a tale ” to the most trifling description of an institution or a method; the moral being often a sweeping condemnation of the Chinese not warranted by the limited facts.
Before the International Suffrage Convention recently held in Washington, D. C., a report was read on the Condition of Women in China. The author was a woman and a missionary. To the extent of two newspaper columns she confined herself to a careful and able exposition of this, the saddest feature of Chinese civilization, and told of the sorrows of her own sex in China in simple facts that the most ardent admirer of China could never think of denying. But near the close of the report the author suddenly expanded her subject and said : —
“This is a dark picture, and one is tempted to ask, ‘ Is there no good thing in all the land of China? ’ Yes, if we look at the bright spots, which are illuminated by the light of the gospel. Here we see colleges, universities, schools for the rich and the poor, churches, Sabbath schools, anti-foot-binding societies, Christian Endeavor and missionary societies.”
This is an excellent example of missionary literature; a conclusion covering all of Chinese civilization deduced from a description of one phase of it. On any hot summer afternoon the writer of the report could walk for hours through streets and alleys in the city of New York where she could see palefaced little children lying on fire-escapes of tenements, panting for a breath of God’s fresh air. She could pass hundreds of rum-shops where drunken husbands and fathers spent their last cent of wages and let their families starve. She could see men fighting, and she could hear women cursing, and could discover many other things in the “ dark picture ” which it would be impossible for her to find in China. Would she then be warranted in asking, “ Is there no good thing in all the United States ? ” There is no more reason for so sweeping an inquiry in the case of the land of the BlackHaired People than in our own. There certainly are “bright spots” in China besides those which the writer of the report has enumerated. Is not the universal observance of the fifth commandment — the love of children for their parents, and the respect for old age — a bright spot ? Is not the absence of slums and saloons a bright spot ? If, as the result of a crusade, the W. C. T. U. had succeeded in closing all the saloons in an interior American town, it is safe to say that the writer of the report would agree that the town in question was the brightest spot on the map of the state. Outside of Foreign Concessions there are no saloons in all China, although the population is five times that of the United States, and yet the total absence of the saloon in no way lightens the dark picture of China. The United States is — or is supposed to be — a Christian nation, and China is heathen. That is the reason why light in one picture is darkness in the other.
There was a Divine Man on earth once who “ate with publicans and sinners ; ” who said, “ Render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s,” and “Judge not that you be not judged; ” who taught that “Ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father, but the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; ” who never complained of malicious persecution to a tetrarch, or demanded an indemnity from a Sanhedrim; who from a mountain preached a sermon that will last forever, and afterwards fed his five thousand listeners without first asking them whether or not they agreed with him, and without announcing a hymn before the conclusion of the services. He “went about doing good, ” and “he shall draw all men unto him.”
If the time shall ever come when we hear less talk about a missionary spirit and more of the spirit of Christ in mission work, then, and not till then, will there be hope for the gospel in China. From present indications that time is a long way off. But meanwhile we can at least sometimes ask the Chinaman “Why? ” before we condemn him. We can listen to his reasons before we abandon him as a hopeless heathen. We can judge him in the spirit of fair play in which heathen Altangi judged England.
My experience of Fum Hoam’s country has led me to hope that some day an Anglo-Saxon Altangi will ride across the gray hidden land, and from it will write letters to some friend in Christendom that will teach the world that although the Chinese is yellow and a heathen, he is yet a man worthy of fair play.
Francis H. Nichols.