The usual expense of a burial among the working people is said to be $100, Mexican, an enormous burden when the day’s wage or the yearly earning of the family is considered and when there is added to this the yearly expense of ancestor worship. How such voluntary burdens are assumed by people under such circumstances is hard to understand. Missionaries assert it is fear of evil consequences in this life and of punishment and neglect in the hereafter that leads to assuming them. Is it not far more likely that such is the price these people are willing to pay for a good name among the living and because of their deep and lasting friendship for the departed? Nor does it seem at all strange that a kindly, warm-hearted people with strong filial affection should have reached, carry in their long history, a belief in one spirit of the departed which hovers about the home, one which hovers about the grave and another which wanders abroad, for surely there are associations with each of these conditions which must long and forcefully awaken memories of friends gone. If this view is possible may not such ancestral worship be an index of qualities of character strongly fixed and of the highest worth which, when improvements come that may relieve the heavy burdens now carried, will only shine more brightly and count more for right living as well as comfort?
Even in our own case it will hardly be maintained that our burial customs have reached their best and final solution, for in all civilized nations they are unnecessarily expensive and far too cumbersome. It is only necessary to mentally add the accumulation of a few centuries to our cemeteries to realize how impossible our practice must become. Clearly there is here a very important line for betterment which all nationalities should undertake.
When the steamer anchored at Shanghai the day was pleasant and the rain coats which greeted us in Yokohama were not in evidence but the numbers who had met the steamer in the hope of an opportunity for earning a trifle was far greater and in many ways in strong contrast with the Japanese. We were much surprised to find the men of so large stature, much above the Chinese usually seen in the United States. They were fully the equal of large Americans in frame but quite without surplus flesh yet few appeared underfed. To realize that these are strong, hardy men it was only necessary to watch them carrying on their shoulders bales of cotton between them, supported by a strong bamboo; while the heavy loads they transport on wheel-barrows through the country over long distances, as seen in Fig. 32, prove their great endurance. This same type of vehicle, too, is one of the common means of transporting people, especially Chinese women, and four six and even eight may be seen riding together, propelled by a single wheelbarrow man.
TO HONGKONG AND CANTON