That quiet persistence and unfailing patience form a national virtue among the Chinese—the capacity to wait without complaint and to bear all with silent endurance. This virtue is seen more clearly in great national disasters which occasionally befall the country. The terrible famine of 1877-8 was the cause of the death of millions of people, and left scores of millions without house, food or clothing; they were driven forth as wanderers on the face of the earth without home, without hope. The Government does nothing whatever in these cases. The people who wish to live must find the means to live, and what impressed me all through my wanderings was the absolute science to which poverty is reduced. In such calamities the Chinese, of all men on the earth’s surface, will battle along if there is any chance at all. If he is blessed, he once more becomes a farmer; but if not, he accepts the position as inevitable and irremediable. The Chinese race has the finest power in the world to withstand with fortitude the ills of life and the miseries which follow inability to procure the wherewithal to live. Their nerves are somehow different from our Western nerves.
In China nothing is wasted, not only in food, but in everything affecting the common life.
That a beast dies of disease is of no concern. It is eaten all the same from head to hoof, from skin to entrail, and the remarkable fact is that they do not seem to suffer from it, either. At Kiang-ti (mentioned in a previous chapter) I saw a horse being pushed down the hillside to the river. It was not yet dead, but was dying, so far as I could see, of inflammation of the bowels. Its body was cut up, and there were several people waiting to buy it at forty cash the catty.
From Hungay onwards I met a class of people I had not seen before. They were the Minchia (Pe-tso).