The European traveler in China cannot perhaps deny himself the pleasure of dwelling upon the absurdities and oddities of the life as they strike him, but there is also another side to the question. Our own civilization, presenting so many features so extremely removed from his own ancient ideas and preconceived notion of things in general, probably looks quite as ridiculous from the standpoint of the Chinese. The East and the West each have lessons to offer the other. The West is offering them to the East, and they are being absorbed. And perhaps were we to learn the lessons to which we now close our eyes and ears, but which are being put before us in the characteristics of Oriental civilization, we may in years to come, sooner than we expect, rejoice to think that we have something in return for what we have given; it may save us a rude awakening. It does not strike the average European, who has never been to China, and who knows no more about the country than the telegrams which filter through when massacres of our own compatriots occur, that Europe and America are not the only territories on this little round ball where the inhabitants have been left with a glorious heritage.
But I was speaking of my men delaying on the road to Kwang-tung-hsien, when they laughed at my impatience.
“Ih dien mien, ih dien mien,” shouted one, as he held out a huge blue bowl of white wormlike strings and a couple of chopsticks. “Mien,” it should be said, is something like vermicelli. A tremendous amount of it is eaten; and in Singapore, without exception, it is dried over the city’s drains, hung from pole to pole after the rope-maker’s fashion. Its slipperiness renders the long boneless strings most difficult of efficient adjustment, and the recollection of the entertainment my comrades received as I struggled to get a decent mouthful sticks to me still.
After that I hurried on, got off the “ta lu,” and suffered a nasty experience for my foolishness. When nearing the city, inquiring whether my men had gone on inside the walls, a manure coolie, liar that he was, told me that they had. I strode on again, encountering the crowds who blocked the roadway as market progressed, who stared in a suspicious manner at the generally disreputable, tired, and dirty foreigner. Each moment I expected the escort to arrive. I could not sit down and drink tea, for I had not a single cash on my person. I could speak none