Across China on Foot eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 330 pages of information about Across China on Foot.
for the railway engine.  Ploughmen with their buffaloes and their biblical ploughshare, raked over the red ground; women, with babies on their backs, picked produce already ripe; children played roundabout, and those old enough helped their fathers in the fields; coolies bustled along with exchanges of merchandise with neighboring villages, quite content if but a couple of meals each day were earned and eaten; the official, the ruler of these peaceful people, passed with old-time pomp—­not in a modern carriage, not in a modern saloon, but in the same way as did his ancestors back in the dim ages, in a sedan-chair carried by men.  There was plenty of everything—­enough for all—­but all had to contribute to its getting.  There was no greed, their few wants were easily satisfied, and here, as everywhere in my journeyings, I have noticed it to be the case among the common people, there was no desire to get rich and absorb wealth.  They wanted to live, to learn to labor as little as the growth of food supplies demanded, to become fathers and mothers, and, to their minds, to get the most out of life.  And who will contradict it?  They do not see with the eyes of the West; we do not, we cannot, see with their eyes.  But surely the living of this simple life, the same as it was in the beginning, has a good deal in it; it is not uncivilization, not barbarism, and the fair-minded traveler in China can come to but one opinion, even in the midst of all the conflicting emotions which result from his own upbringing, that we could, if we would, learn many a good lesson from the old-time life of the Celestial in his own country.

Yet these are the very people who may jostle us harshly later on in the racial struggle.

I am not suggesting that when the Chinese adopts the cult of the West, and comes into general contact with it—­and I believe that I am right in saying that this is the desire, generally speaking, of the whole of the enlightened classes—­he continues with his few wants.  As a matter of fact, he does not.  He is as extravagant, and perhaps more so, than the most of us.  I have seen Straits Chinese waste at the gaming tables in their gorgeous clubs as much in one night as some European residents handle in one year, and he is quick to get his motor-car, his horses and carriages, and endless other ornaments of wealth.  So that if progress in the course of the evolution of nations means that the Chinese too will demand all that the European now demands, and will cease to find satisfaction in the existing conditions of his life in the new goal towards which he is moving, and if he, in course of time, should increase the cost of living per head to equal that of the Westerner, then he will lose a good deal of the advantage he now undoubtedly has in the struggle for racial supremacy.  But if, gradually taking advantage of all in religion, in science, in literature, in art, in modern naval and military equipment and skill, and all that has made nations great and made for real progress in the West, he were also to continue his present hardy frugality in living—­which is not a tenth as costly in proportion to that of the Occident—­then his advantage in entering upon the conflict among the nations for ultimate supremacy would be undoubted, immeasurable.

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Across China on Foot from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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