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Across China on Foot eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 330 pages of information about Across China on Foot.
the reform movement, the change is coming, has already come with alarming rapidity, and has come to stay.  China is changing—­let so much be granted; and although the movement may be hampered by a thousand general difficulties, presented by the ancient civilization of a people whose customs and manners and ideas have stood the test of time since the days contemporary with those of Solomon, and at one time bade fair to test eternity, the Government cry of “China for the Chinese” is going to win.  Chinese civilization has for ages been allowed to get into a very bad state of repair, and official corruption and deceit have prevented the Government from making an effectual move towards present-day aims; but that she is now making an honest endeavor to rectify her faults in the face of tremendous odds must, so it appears to the writer, be apparent to all beholders.  That is the Government view-point.  It is important to note this.

In China, however, the Government is not the people.  It never has been.  It is not to be expected that great political and social reforms can be introduced into such an enormous country as China, and among her four hundred and thirty millions of people, merely by the issue of a few imperial edicts.  The masses have to be convinced that any given thing is for the public good before they accept, despite the proclamations, and in thus convincing her own people China has yet to go through the fire of a terrible ordeal.  Especially will this be seen in the second part of this volume, where in Yuen-nan there are huge areas absolutely untouched by the forward movement, and where the people are living the same life of disease, distress and dirt, of official, social, and moral degradation as they lived when the Westerner remained still in the primeval forest stage.  But despite the scepticism and the cynicism of certain writers, whose pessimism is due to a lack of foresight, and despite the fact that she is being constantly accused of having in the past ignominiously failed at the crucial moment in endeavors towards minor reforms, I am one of those who believe that in China we shall see arising a Government whose power will be paramount in the East, and upon the integrity of whose people will depend the peace of Europe.  It is much to say.  We shall not see it, but our children will.  The Government is going to conquer the people.  She has done so already in certain provinces, and in a few years the reform—­deep and real, not the make-believe we see in many parts of the Empire to-day—­will be universal.

* * * * *

Between Singapore and Shanghai the opportunity occurred of calling at Saigon and Hong-Kong, two cities offering instructive contrasts of French and British administration in the Far East.

Saigon is not troubled much by the Britisher.  The nationally-exacting Frenchman has brought it to represent fairly his loved Paris in the East.  The approach to the city, through the dirty brown mud of the treacherous Mekong, which is swept down vigorously to the China sea between stretches of monotonous mangrove, with no habitation of man anywhere visible, is distinctly unpicturesque; but Saigon itself, apart from the exorbitance of the charges (especially so to the spendthrift Englishman), is worth the dreary journey of numberless twists and quick turns up-river, annoying to the most patient pilot.

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