Across China on Foot eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 397 pages of information about Across China on Foot.
do it continuously, whether the pony is lame or not, at least the majority.  But the cruelty of the Chinese is probably not regarded as cruelty, certainly not in the sense of cruelty in the West.  Being Chinese, with customs and laws of life such as they are, their instinct of cruelty is excusable to some degree.  Not only is it with animals, however, but among themselves the Chinese have no mercy, no sympathy.  In Christian England within the last century men where hanged for petty theft; but in Yuen-nan—­I do not know whether it is still current in other provinces—­men have been known to be burnt to death for stealing maize.  A case was reported from Ch’u-tsing-fu quite recently, but it is a custom which used to be quite common.  A document is signed by the man’s relatives, a stick is brought by every villager, the man lashed to a stake, and his own people are compelled to light the fire.  It seems incredible, but this horrible practice has not been entirely extirpated by the authorities, although since the Yuen-nan Rebellion it has not been by any means so frequent.  I have no space nor inclination to deal with the ghastly tortures inflicted upon prisoners in the name of that great equivalent to justice, but the more one knows of them the more can he appreciate the common adage urging dead men to keep out of hell and the living out of the yamens!

Hua-chow is thirty li from here at the head of an abominable hill, and here women, overlooking one of the worst paved roads in the Empire, were beating out corn.  Then we climbed for another twenty-five li, rising from 5,900 feet to 8,200 feet, till we came to a little place called Tien-chieng-p’u.  It took us three hours.  Looking backwards,towards Tali-fu, I saw my 14,000 feet friends, and as we went down the other side over a splendid stone road we could see, far down below, a valley which seemed a veritable oasis, smiling and sweet.  A temple here contained a battered image of the Goddess of Mercy, who controls the births of children.  A poor woman was depositing a few cash in front of the besmeared idol, imploring that she might be delivered of a son.  How pitiable it is to see these poor creatures doing this sort of thing all over the West of China!

For two days we had been accompanied by a man who was an opium smoker and eater.  Now I am not going to draw a horrible description of a shrivelled, wasted bogey in man’s form, with creaking bones and shivering limbs and all the rest of it; but I must say that this man, towards the time when his craving came upon him, was a wreck in every worst sense—­he crept away to the wayside and smoked, and arrived always late at night at the end of the stage.  This was the effect of the drug which has been described “as harmless as milk.”  I do not exaggerate.  In the course of Eastern journalistic experience I have written much in defence of opium, have paralleled it to the alcohol of my own country.  This was in the Straits Settlements, where the deadly effects

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Across China on Foot from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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