A couple of years ago a company of drilled soldiers arrived there as a nucleus for recruiting units for the new army. Soon 1,500 men were enlisted. They were to serve a three years’ term, were to receive four dollars per month, and were promised good treatment. The officers drilled them from dawn to dusk; deserters were therefore many, necessitating the detail of a few heads coming off to avert the trouble of losing all the men. It cost the men about a dollar or so for their rice, so that it will be readily seen that, with a clear profit of three dollars as a monthly allowance, they were better off than they would have been working on their land. Officers received from forty to sixty taels a month. Temples here were converted into barracks—a sign in itself of the altered conditions of the times—and I visited some extensive buildings which were being erected at a cost of eighty thousand gold dollars.
Military progress in this “backward province” is as great as it has been anywhere at any time in any part of the Chinese Empire.
Until a few years ago, as China was kept in law and order without the necessary evil of a standing army, so did Yuen-nan-fu slumber on in the Chinese equivalent for peace and plenty. As they now are, and taking into consideration that they were all picked from the rawest material, the police force of this capital is as able a body of men as are to be found in all Western China. Probably the Metropolitan police of dear old London could not be re-forced from their ranks, but disciplined and well-ordered they certainly are withal. Swords seem to take the place of the English bludgeon, and a peaked cap, beribboned with gold, is substituted for the old-fashioned helmet of blue; and if the time should ever come, with international rights, when Englishmen will be “run in” in the Empire, the sallow physiognomy and the dangling pigtail alone will be unmistakable proofs to the victim, even in heaviest intoxication, that he is not being handled by policemen of his awn kind—that is, if the Yuen-nan police shall ever have made strides towards the attainment of home police principles. However, in their place these men have done good work. Thieving in the city is now much less common, and gambling, although still rife under cover—when will the Chinese eradicate that inherent spirit?—is certainly being put down. One of the features of their work also has been the improvement they have effected in the appearance of the streets. Old customs are dying, and at the present time if a man in his untutored little ways throws his domestic refuse into the place where the gutter should have been, as in olden days, he is immediately pounced upon, reprimanded by the policeman on duty, and fined somewhat stiffly.