Across China on Foot eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 397 pages of information about Across China on Foot.
idols are in their houses.  That portion of the tribe which migrated across the Yangtze, secure among the mountains, has never ceased to harass the Chinese, who now dwell on land which the Nou-su themselves once tilled, or at least inhabited; but they have been driven into remoter districts, and are only found away from the highways of Chinese travel.  The race, too, is dying out—­in this area at all events—­and the Nou-su themselves reckon that their numbers have decreased by one-half during the last thirty years.  This is one of the saddest facts.  The insanitation of their dwellings, their rough diet, and frequent riotings in wine, opium and other evils, are quickly playing havoc in their ranks, giving the strong the opportunity of enriching themselves at the expense of the weak, with frequent fighting about the division of land.

Europeans who can speak the language of the Nou-su are numbered on the fingers of one hand.

To one who has traveled in this neighborhood for any length of time, it must be apparent that the unique method generally adopted by the Nou-su, that is, the landlord class, to get rich quickly is to kill off their next-door neighbor.  The lives these men live with nothing but scandal and licentiousness to pass their time, are grossly and horribly wicked when viewed by the broadest-minded Westerner.  They all live in fear of their lives, and are each afraid of the others, all entertaining a secret hatred, and all ever on the alert to devise some safe scheme to murder the owner of some land they are anxious of annexing to their own—­and in the doing of the deed to save their own necks.  If they succeed, they are accounted clever men.  As I write, I hear of a man, quite a youngster, himself an exceedingly wealthy man, who killed his brother and confiscated his property with no compunction whatever.  When tackled on the subject, he said he could do nothing else, for if he had not killed his brother his brother would have killed him

Yet there is no sense of crime as we of the West understand it, and nothing is feared from the Chinese law.  A man kills a slave, tortures him to death, and when the Chinese mandarin is appealed to, if he is at all, he looks wise and says, “I quite see your point, but I can do nothing.  The murdered man was the landlord’s slave,” and, with a gentle wave of his three-inch finger-nail, he explains how a man may kill his slave, his wife, or his son—­and the law can do nothing.  That is, if he compensates the mandarin.

A Nou-su looked upon a girl one day, when he was out collecting tribute.  She was handsome, and he instructed his men to take her.  She refused.  A sum of one hundred ounces of silver was offered to anyone who would kidnap her and carry her off to his harem.  Eventually he got the girl, and had her father tortured and then put to death because he would not deliver his daughter over to him.  Yet there is no redress.

Nou-su women, their feet unbound, with high foreheads and well-cut features, with fiery eyes set in not unkindly faces, tall and healthy, would be considered handsome women in any country in Europe.  They rarely intermarry with other tribes.  A good deal of affection certainly exists sometimes between husband and wife and between parents and children, but the looseness of the marriage relation leads to unending strife.

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Across China on Foot from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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