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The prominent place given to education in China renders the Chinese village school an object of more than common interest, for it is here that by far the greater number of the educated men of the empire receive their first intellectual training. While the schools of one district may be a little better or worse than those of another, there is probably no country in the world where there is so much uniformity in the standards of instruction, and in all its details, as in China.

There are in the Chinese Classics several passages which throw an interesting light upon the views which have been handed down from antiquity in regard to the education of children. One of these is found in the writings of Mencius. Upon one occasion he was asked why the superior man does not teach his own son. To this Mencius replied that the circumstances of the case forbid it. The teacher should inculcate what is correct. When he does so, and his lessons are not practiced, he follows it up by being angry. Thus he is alienated from his son who complains to himself that his father teaches one thing and practices another. As a result the estrangement becomes mutual and deepens. Between father and son, said Mencius, there should be no reproving admonitions to what is good, because these lead to such aliénations. The ancients, he declared, exchanged sons, and one taught the son of another.

Another significant passage is found in the Confucian Analects, and is as follows, quoting, as before, Dr. Legge’s translation, “Ch’en K’ang asked Po YA1/4, the son of Confucius, saying, ’Have you heard any lessons from your father, different from what we have all heard?’ Po YA1/4 replied, ’No; he was once standing alone when I hurriedly passed below the hall, and he said to me, “Have you learned the Odes?” on my replying, “not yet,” he added, “If you do not learn the Odes, you will not be fit to converse with.” I retired and studied the Odes. Another day he was in the same way standing alone, when I hastily passed below the hall, and he said to me, “Have you learned the Rules of Propriety?” on my replying, “not yet,” he added, “If you do not learn the Rules of Propriety, your character cannot be established.” I then retired and studied the Rules of Propriety. I have heard only these two things from him.’ Ch’en K’ang retired, delighted, saying, ’I asked about one thing, and I have got three things. I have heard about the Odes, I have heard about the Rules of Propriety, and I have heard that the superior man maintains a distant reserve toward his son.’”

Confucius was a master who felt himself to be in possession of great truths of which his age was in deep need, and he offered his instructions to rich and poor alike, upon the sole condition of receptivity. “I do not open up the truth,” he said, “to one who is not eager to get knowledge, nor help out any one who is not anxious to explain himself. When I have presented one corner of a subject to any one, and he cannot from it learn the other three, I do not repeat the lesson.” For aught that appears, the son of Confucius was wholly dependent for whatever he knew or received, upon his father. According to Confucius, an acquaintance with the Odes, and with the Rules of Propriety, form a very considerable part of the equipment of a scholar. They embrace such subjects as could be comprehended and assimilated, one would suppose, only by the assistance of a competent teacher. That in the education of his own son, Confucius should have contented himself with a casual question, and a single hint, as to the pursuit of those branches which were in his eyes of preA"minent importance, is a circumstance so singular that if it were not handed down upon the same authority as the other facts in the life of the sage, we might be disposed to doubt its credibility.

The theory upon which the master acted is happily epitomized by Ch’en K’ang “distant reserve.” Even to his own son the superior man is a higher grade of being, whose slightest word contains fruitful seeds of instruction. He expects his pupil to act upon a hint as if it were the formal announcement of a law of nature. He is the sun around whom his planets revolve, in orbits proportioned to the force of the central attraction an attraction which varies with the capacity to be attracted. Yet in every case there is a point beyond which no pupil can go, he must not come too near his sun.

According to Occidental thought, the ideal of teaching is exemplified in the methods of such educators as Dr. Arnold, of Rugby, whose stimulating influence was felt over an entire generation. Upon the plan of Confucius it is difficult to see, not how he could have won the love of his pupils which was probably remote from his thought and from theirs but how he could have permanently impressed himself upon any except the very apt. Few are the pupils, we may be sure, who after a chance question and a remark will retire and study unaided a branch of learning which, they are told, will enable them to converse, or to “establish” their characters.

Contrast with this method of Confucius that of James Mill, as detailed in the autobiography of his son, John Stuart Mill. Here was a father, not a professional philosopher, but a man of business, who amid the composition of historical and other works, found time to superintend the education of his son from the days of earliest infancy until mature manhood, not in the ancient language only, but in history, philosophy, political economy, composition, and even in elocution, and all with comprehensiveness of plan, a labourious and unwearying persistence in teaching principles and not rules, combined with scrupulous fidelity in minutest details. By this patient assiduity and his father’s skillful direction, Mill was given a start over his contemporaries, as he himself remarks, of at least a quarter of a century, and became one of the most remarkably educated men of whom we have any record. One could wish that to his “imaginary conversations of literary men and statesmen,” Walter Savage Landor had added a chapter giving a dialogue between Confucius and James Mill, “on distant reserve as a factor in the education of sons.”

It is far from being the fact that every Chinese village has its school, but it is doubtless true that every village would like to have one, for there is everywhere the most profound reverence for “instruction.” The reasons given for the absence of a school are always that the village is too poor, or too small, or both.

In China every educated man is a potential schoolmaster, and most of those who have the opportunity to do so take a school. It is one of the allegorical sayings of the flowery land that “in the ink-slab fields there are no bad crops,” which signifies that literature is a vocation standing upon a firmer basis than any other. This is the theory. As a matter of fact the Chinese teacher is often barely able to keep soul and body together, and is frequently obliged to borrow garments in which to appear before his patrons. His learning may have fitted him to teach a school, or it may not. It has completely unfitted him to do anything else. It is therefore a period of great anxiety to the would-be pedagogue when the school cards are in preparation.

“When the ground is clean, and the threshing-floor bare,
The teacher’s heart is filled with care,”

says the proverb, and another adage is current, to the effect that if one has a few bags of grain on hand, he is not obliged to be king over children.

To the enormous oversupply of school-teachers, it is due that one of the most honourable of callings is at the same time one of the most ill-paid. Teachers of real ability, or who have in some way secured a great reputation, are able to command salaries in proportion; but the country schoolmaster, who can compete for a situation within a very small area only, is often remunerated with but a mere pittance an allowance of grain supposed to be adequate for his food, a supply of dried stalks for fuel, and a sum in money, frequently not exceeding ten Mexican dollars for the year. It is not very uncommon to meet teachers who have but one or two pupils, and who receive for their services little or nothing more than their food. To the natural inquiry whether it was worth his while to teach for such a slender compensation, a schoolmaster of this class replied, that it was better than staying at home with nothing to eat. It is a current saying that the rich never teach school, and the poor never attend one though to this there are exceptions. It is a strange fact that one occasionally meets schoolmasters who have never studied anything beyond the Four Books, and who therefore know nothing of the Five Classics, an outfit comparable to that of a Western teacher who should only have perused his arithmetic as far as simple division!

The proposition to have a school is made by the parents of the children, and when it is ascertained that a sufficient number of names can be secured, these are entered on a red card, called a school list (kuan-tan). This is generally prepared by the time of the winter solstice (December 21st), though sometimes the matter is left in abeyance until the very end of the year, some six weeks later. On the other hand, in some regions, it is customary to have the school card ready by the 15th of the eighth moon, some time in August or September. The choice of a teacher, like many other things Chinese, is very much a matter of chance. It seems to be rather uncommon that a scholar should teach in his own village, though this does often happen. The reason generally given for this is that it is inconvenient for the pupils to be too near an ex-preceptor who may make demands upon them in later years. Sometimes the same teacher is engaged for a long series of years, while in other places there is an annual change.

Once the pupil’s name has been regularly entered upon the school list, he must pay the tuition agreed upon, whether he ever attends the school or not, no matter what the reason for his absence.

Should serious illness prevent the teacher from beginning his duties at all, the engagement is cancelled; but if he enters upon them, and is then disabled, the full tuition is exacted from every scholar, just as if the engagement had been completed.

The wish of the school patron is to get as much work as he can out of the teacher for the money paid him. The endeavour of the teacher is to get as much money as he can, and to do as little work as he must. For this reason he is always glad to have the names added after the school list has been made out, because that will increase his receipts. The patrons frequently object to this, because they think their own children will be neglected, and unless all the patrons consent the addition cannot be made. They also dislike to have the teacher bring a son or a nephew with him, lest the slender salary should be insufficient for the food of both. In that event the master might abandon the school before the year is over, as sometimes occurs, but such teachers find it difficult to secure another school the following year.

The schoolhouse is an unoccupied room in a private house, an ancestral, or other temple, or any other available place borrowed for the purpose. Renting a place for a school seems to be almost or quite unknown. The teacher does his own cooking, or if he is unequal to this task, he is assisted by one of his pupils, perhaps his own son, whom he often brings with him, albeit, as already mentioned, there is classical authority against having a son taught by a father.

The furniture required for each pupil is provided by his parents, and consists simply of a table and a stool or bench. The four “precious articles” required in literature are the ink-slab with a little well to hold the water required to rub up the ink, the ink-cake, the brush for writing, and paper.

The Chinese school year is coincident with the calendar year, though the school does not begin until after the middle of the first moon, some time in February. There is a vacation at the wheat harvest in June, and another and longer one at the autumnal harvest in September and October. The school is furthermore dismissed ten or twenty days before the new year.

Should the master not have been reA"ngaged he is likely to do very little teaching during the last moon of the year, as he is much more interested in arranging for the future than in piecing out the almost dead present. The attendance of the scholars, too, is in any case irregular and capricious, amply justifying the saying:

“Once entered at the twelfth month’s door,
The teacher rules his boys no more.”

Chinese education is based upon the wisdom of the ancients, and of those ancients Confucius is held to be the chief. It is natural, therefore, that upon the beginning of a school there should be special respect paid to the Great Sage who is regarded as the patron of learning. Usages vary so much that no generalizations are ever safe in China, but it is a singular fact that instead of the altar, incense, candles, and formal prayers to Confucius, which in some parts of the empire are in use at the beginning of a year’s school, in the province of Confucius himself the ceremonies are for the most part much simpler. At the feast to the teacher by the patrons, the scholars are introduced and make two obeisances, one meant for Confucius, and the other for the present preceptor. In this case there is not only no image of the Sage, but no written character to represent him. And even this modest ceremony is far from universal. A teacher of twenty-five or thirty years’ experience declared that he had never seen this performed but once.

The scholars in a Chinese school are expected to be on hand at an early hour, and by sunrise they are, perhaps, howling vigourously away. When it is time for the morning meal they return to their homes, and as soon as it is finished, again return. About noon they are released for dinner, after which they go back as before to school. If the weather is hot, every one else men, women, and children is indulging in the afternoon siesta, but the scholars are in their places as usual, although they may be suffered to doze at their desks as well as they can, for half the rest of the day. In this way the discipline of the school is supposed to be maintained, and some allowance made at the same time for poor human nature. Were they allowed to take a regular nap at home, the teacher fears with excellent reason that he would see no more of them for the day.

If Chinese pupils are to be pitied in the dog-days, the same is even more true of the dead of winter, when the thermometer hovers between the freezing-point and zero. The village school will very likely have either no fire at all, or only such as is made by a pile of kindling or a bundle of stalks lit on the earth floor, modifying the temperature but for a few moments, and filling the room with acrid smoke for an hour. Even should there be a little brazier with a rudimentary charcoal fire, it is next to useless, and is mainly for the behoof of the master. The pupils will be found (if they can afford such luxuries) enveloped in long winter hoods, sitting all day in a state of semi-congelation.

They generally do not leave the schoolhouse until it is too dark to distinguish one character from another. When at length the scholars are released, it is not for a healthful walk, much less for a romp, but to return to their homes in an orderly and becoming manner, like so many grown Confucianists. In some schools the scholars are expected to come back in the evening to their tasks, as if the long and wearisome day were not sufficient for them, and this is, perhaps, universally the case in the advanced schools where composition is studied.

According to the Chinese theory, the employment of teacher is the most honourable possible. Confucius and Mencius, the great sages of antiquity, were only teachers. To invite a teacher, is compared to the investiture of a general by the emperor with supreme command. In consequence of this theory, springing directly from the exalted respect for learning entertained by the Chinese, a master is allowed almost unlimited control. According to a current proverb, the relation of teacher and pupil resembles that of father and son, but the simile of a general would be a more correct expression of a teacher’s powers. He is able to declare a sort of martial law, and to punish with the greatest rigour.

One of the earliest lines in the Trimetrical Classic declares that “to rear without instruction, is a father’s fault”; “to teach without severity, shows a teacher’s indolence.” It is common for boys to run away, sometimes to great distances, because they have been punished at school. The writer was told by a man in middle life that when he was a lad he had been beaten by a preceptor of the same surname, because that teacher had himself been beaten as a child by the pupil’s grandfather, the grudge being thus carried on to the third generation! The ferule always lies upon the teacher’s desk, and serves also as a tally. Whenever a scholar goes out, he takes this with him, and is supposed to be influenced by the legend upon one side, “go out reverentially,” and upon the other, “enter respectfully.” Two pupils are not allowed to go out at the same time.

The most flagrant offence which a pupil can commit is the persistent failure to learn his task within the allotted time. For this misdemeanour he is constantly punished, and often to the extent of hundreds of blows. Considering how little correction is ever administered to Chinese children at home, and how slight are the attempts at anything resembling family government, it is surprising to what extreme lengths teachers are allowed to carry discipline. Bad scholars, and stupid ones for a stupid scholar is always considered as a bad one are not infrequently punished every day, and are sometimes covered with the marks of their beatings, to an extent which suggests rather a runaway slave than a scholar. As the pupil dodges about, with the hope of escaping some of the blows, he is not unlikely to receive them upon his head, even if they were not intended for it. In a case of this sort, a pupil was so much injured as to be thrown into fits, and such instances can scarcely be uncommon. As a general thing, no further notice appears to be taken of the matter by the parent than to see the master and ascertain the special occasion of his severity. The family of the pupil is naturally anxious that the pupil shall come to something, and is ready to assume as an axiomatic truth that the only road to any form of success in life is by the acquisition of an education. This can be accomplished only by the aid of the teacher, and therefore the rules laid down by him are to be implicitly followed, at whatever expense to the feelings of either father or son.

In one case within the writer’s knowledge, a father was determined that his son should obtain sufficient education to fit him to take charge of a small business. The son, on the other hand, was resolved to return to his fork and manure basket, and the teacher was invited to further the plans of the boy’s father. When the time came to begin his education at school, the lad absolutely declined to go, and like most Chinese parents in similar circumstances, the father was perfectly unable to force him to do what he did not wish to do. The only available plan was to have the boy tied hand and foot, placed in a basket slung to a pole, and carried by two men, like a pig. In this condition he was deposited at the schoolhouse, where he was chained to two chairs, and not allowed to leave the building. He was set the usual task in the Trimetrical Classic, to which, however, he paid no attention whatever, although beaten as often as the teacher could spare the time. The boy not only did not study, but he employed all his strength in wailing over his hard lot. This state of things continued for several days, at the end of which time it was apparent, even to the boy’s father, that, as the proverb says: “You cannot help a dead dog over a wall;” and the lad was henceforth suffered to betake himself to those agricultural operations for which alone he was fitted.

Different teachers of course differ greatly in their use of punishment, but whatever the nature of the severities employed, a genuine Confucianist would much rather increase the rigour of discipline than relax it. To his mind the method which he employs appears to be the only one which is fitted to accomplish the end in view. The course of study, the method of study, and the capacity of the pupil, are all fixed quantities; the only variable one is the amount of diligence which the scholar can be persuaded or driven to put forth. Hence the ideal Chinese teacher is sometimes a perfect literary Pharaoh.

When the little pupil at the age of perhaps seven or eight takes his seat in the school for the first time, neither the sound nor the meaning of a single character is known to him. The teacher reads over the line, and the lad repeats the sounds, constantly corrected until he can pronounce them properly. He thus learns to associate a particular sound with a certain shape. A line or two is assigned to each scholar, and after the pronunciation of the characters has been ascertained, his “study” consists in bellowing the words in as high a key as possible. Every Chinese regards this shouting as an indispensable part of the child’s education. If he is not shouting how can the teacher be sure that he is studying? and as studying and shouting are the same thing, when he is shouting there is nothing more to be desired. Moreover, by this means the master, who is supposed to keep track of the babel of sound, is instantly able to detect any mispronunciation and correct it in the bud. When the scholar can repeat the whole of his task without missing a single character, his lesson is “learned,” and he then stands with his back to the teacher to make sure that he does not see the book and recites, or “backs,” it at railway speed.

Every educator is aware of the extreme difficulty of preventing children from reading the English language with an unnatural tone. To prevent the formation of a vicious habit of this sort is as difficult as to prevent the growth of weeds, and to eradicate such habits once formed is often next to impossible. In the case of Chinese pupils, these vices in their most extreme form are well-nigh inevitable. The attention of the scholar is fixed exclusively upon two things, the repetition of the characters in the same order as they occur in the book, and the repetition of them at the highest attainable rate of speed. Sense and expression are not merely ignored, for the words represent ideas which have never once dawned upon the Chinese pupil’s mind. His sole thought is to make a recitation. If he is really master of the passage which he recites, he falls at once into a loud hum, like that of a peg-top or a buzz, like that of a circular saw, and to extract either from the buzz or from the hum any sound as of human speech no matter how familiar the auditor may be with the passage recited is extremely difficult and frequently impossible.

But if the passage has been only imperfectly committed, and the pupil is brought to a standstill for the lack of characters to repeat, he does not pause to collect his thoughts, for he has no thoughts to collect has in fact no thoughts to speak of. What he has, is a dim recollection of certain sounds, and in order to recall those which he has forgotten, he keeps on repeating the last word, or phrase, or sentence, or page, until association regains the missing link. Then he plunges forward again, as before.

Let us suppose, for example, that the words to be recited are the following, from the Confucian Analects, relating to the habits of the master: “He did not partake of wine and dried meat bought in the market. He was never without ginger when he ate. He did not eat much.” The young scholar, whose acquaintance with this chapter is imperfect, nevertheless dashes on somewhat as follows: “He did not partake he did not partake partake partake partake partake of wine and dried meat bought in bought in bought in the market market the market the market. He was never without ginger when ginger when-ginger when he ate-he ate-he ate-he-ate-ate-he did not eat-eat-eat-eat-eat without ginger when he ate-he did not eat-did not eat much.”

This is the method of all Chinese instruction. The consequence of so much roaring on the part of the scholars is that every Chinese school seems to an inexperienced foreigner like a bedlam. No foreign child could learn, and no foreign teacher could teach, amid such a babel of sound, in which it is impossible for the instructor to know whether the pupils are repeating the sounds which are given to them, or not. As the effect of the unnatural and irrational strain of such incessant screaming upon their voices, it is not uncommon to find Chinese scholars who are so hoarse that they cannot pronounce a loud word.

The first little book which the scholar has put into his hands, is probably the “Trimetrical Classic,” (already mentioned) so called from its arrangement in double lines of three characters above and three below, to a total number of more than 1,000. It was composed eight centuries and a half ago by a preceptor for his private school, and perhaps there are few compositions which have ever been so thoroughly ground into the memory of so many millions of the human race as this. Yet of the inconceivable myriads who have studied it, few have had the smallest idea by whom it has written, or when. Dr. Williams has called attention to the remarkable fact that the very opening sentence of this initial text-book in Chinese education, contains one of the most disputed doctrines in the ancient heathen world: “Men at their birth, are by nature radically good; in their natures they approximate, but in practice differ widely.” After two lines showing the modifying effects of instruction, and the importance of attention, the mother of Mencius is cited as an expert in object lessons for her famous son. The student is next reminded that “just was the life of Tou, of Yen; five sons he reared, all famous men.”

The author then reverts to his main theme, and devotes several strenuous sentences to emphasizing the necessity for instruction in youth, “since gems unwrought can never be useful, and untaught persons will never know the proprieties.” After a further citation of wonderful examples in Chinese history, accompanied with due moralizing, there follow more than sixty lines of a characteristically Chinese mosaic. The little pupil is enlightened on the progressive nature of numbers; the designations of the heavenly bodies; the “three relations” between prince and minister, father and son, man and wife; the four seasons; the four directions; the five elements; the five cardinal virtues; the six kinds of grain; the six domestic animals; the seven passions; the eight kinds of music; the nine degrees of relationship and the ten moral duties.

Having swallowed this formidable list of categories, the scholar is treated to a general summary of the classical books which he is to study as he advances. When he has mastered all the works adjudged “Classic,” he is told that he must go on to those of philosophers and sages, as in the bill of particulars contained in the Trimetrical Classic. His special attention is invited to history, which suggests a catalogue of the numerous Chinese dynastic periods with the names, or rather the styles, of a few of the important founders of dynasties. The list is brought down to the first emperor of the present dynasty, where it abruptly stops at the year 1644. A pupil who wishes to know the titles of the later emperors of the Ch’ing Dynasty can be accommodated when the same shall have been overthrown, and therefore has become a suitable object of historical study. The pupil is urged to ponder these records of history till he understands things ancient and modern as if they were before his eyes, and to make them his morning study and his evening task.

The concluding section contains more of human interest than any of the preceding parts, since we are told that the great Confucius once learned something from a mere child; that the ancient students had no books, but copied their lessons on reeds and slips of bamboo; that to vanquish the body they hung themselves by the hair from a beam, or drove an awl into the thigh; that one read by the light of glow-worms, and that another tied his book to a cow’s horn. Among the prodigies of diligence were two, who, “though girls, were intelligent and well informed.” The closing lines strive to stimulate the ambition of the beginner, not only by the tales of antiquity, but by the faithfulness of the dog at night, and the diligence of the silk-worm and the bee. “If men neglect to learn, they are inferior to insects.” But “he who learns in youth, and acts when of mature age, extends his influence to the prince, benefits the people, makes his name renowned, renders illustrious his parents, reflects glory upon his ancestors and enriches his posterity.” If every Chinese lad does not eventually become a prodigy of learning, it is certainly not the fault of the author of this remarkable compendium, the incalculable influence of which must be the justification of so extended a synopsis.

Another little book, to which the Chinese pupil is early introduced, is the list of Chinese surnames, more than 400 in number, and all to be learned by a dead lift of memory. The characters are arranged in quartettes, and when a Chinese tells another his own surname, it is common to repeat all four, whereupon his auditor recalls which of the several names having the same sound it may be. In some parts of the empire the “Thousand Character Classic” follows the Trimetrical Classic, while in other parts its use seems to be quite unknown. It comprises, as the name implies, a thousand characters, not one of which is repeated. It is common to use these characters instead of ordinal numbers to designate seats in the examination halls, so that it is desirable that scholars should be familiar with the book.

After the scholar has mastered the smaller ones, he passes on to the “Four Books,” the Confucian Analects, the Great Learning, the Doctrine of the Mean, and the works of Mencius. The order in which these books are taken up varies in different places, but, as already observed, the method of study is as nearly as possible invariable. Book after book is stored away in the abdomen (in which the intellectual faculties are supposed to be situated), and if the pupil is furnished with the clew of half a sentence, he can unravel from memory, as required, yards, rods, furlongs or miles of learning.

After the Four Books, follow in varying order the Poetical Classic, the Book of History, the Book of Changes, and the historical work of Confucius, known as the Spring and Autumn Annals. To commit to memory all these volumes, must in any case be the labour of many years. Usage varies in different localities, but it is very common to find scholars who have memorized the whole of the Four Books, and perhaps two of the later Classics the Odes and the History before they have heard any explanations even of the Trimetrical Classic, with which their education began. During all these years, the pupil has been in a condition of mental daze, which is denoted by a Chinese character, the component parts of which signify a pig in the weeds (meng). His entrance upon study is called “lifting the darkness” (ch’i meng), and to teach the beginner is to “instruct darkness.” These expressive phrases correspond to a fixed reality. Of those who have committed to memory all the books named, some of the brightest have no doubt picked up here and there, and as it were by accident, an idea.

Thoughtful Chinese teachers, familiar with the capacity of their pupils, estimate that the most intelligent among them can not be expected to understand a hundredth part of what they have memorized. The great majority of them have about as accurate a conception of the territory traversed, as a boy might entertain of a mountainous district through which he had been compelled to run barefooted and blindfolded in a dense fog, chased for vast distances by a man cracking over his head a long ox-whip. How very little many scholars do grasp of the real meaning, even after explanations which the teacher regards as abundantly full, is demonstrated by a test to which here and there a master subjects his scholars, that of requiring them to write down a passage. The result is frequently the notation of so many false characters as to render it evident, not only that the explanations have not been apprehended, but that notwithstanding such a multitude of perusals, the text itself has been taken only into the ear as so many sounds, and has not entered the mind at all.

The system of explanations adopted by Chinese teachers, as a rule, is almost the exact opposite of that which, to an Occidental, would seem rational. “In speech,” said Confucius, “one should be intelligible, and that is the end of it.” The Confucian teacher, however, is often very far indeed from feeling that it is necessary to be intelligible that is to say, to make it absolutely certain that his pupils have fully comprehended his meaning. He is very apt to deliver his explanations when a sufficient number of years has elapsed to make it seem worth while to begin them at all ex cathedra, and in a stately, formal manner, his attention being much more fixed upon the exhibition of his own skill in displaying his own knowledge, than upon imparting that knowledge to his scholars. It is common to hear it said of a teacher who has attained distinction, that when he opens his mouth to explain the Classics, “every sentence is fit for an examination essay.” This is considered to be the acme of praise. Sentences which are suited to be constituent parts of examination essays, are not, it is superfluous to remark, particularly adapted to the comprehension of young schoolboys, who know nothing about examination essays, the style of which is utterly beyond their powers.

The commentary upon the Classics written by Chu Hsi, in the twelfth century, A. D., has come to have an authority second only to that of the text itself. That no Chinese school-teacher leads his pupils to question for an instant whether the explanation is accurate and adequate, is a matter of course. The whole object of a teacher’s work is to fit his pupils to compete at the examinations, and to prepare essays which shall win the approval of the examiners, thus leading to the rank of literary graduate. This result would be possible only to those who accept the orthodox interpretation of the Classics, and hence it is easy to see that Chinese schools are not likely to become nurseries of heresy. The very idea of discussing with his pupils either text or commentary, does not so much as enter the mind of a Chinese schoolmaster. He could not do so if he would, and he would not if he could.

The task of learning to write Chinese characters is a very serious one, in comparison with which it is scarcely unfair to characterize the mastery of the art of writing any European language, as a mere pastime. The correct notation of characters is, moreover, not less important than the correct recognition of them, for success in some of the examinations is made to depend as much upon caligraphy as upon style.

The characters which the teacher selects for the writing exercises of his pupils, have no relation, strange as it may seem, to anything which he is studying. These characters may at first be taken from little books of rhymes arranged for the purpose, containing characters at once simple and common.

The next step is to change to books containing selections from the T’ang Dynasty poets, an appreciation of which involves acquaintance with tones and rhyme, of which the pupil, as yet, knows nothing. The characters which he now learns to write he has very likely never seen before, and they do not at all assist his other studies. The only item of which notice is taken, is whether the characters are well or ill-formed. Review there is none.

The reason for choosing T’ang Dynasty poetry for writing lessons, instead of characters or sentences which are a part of the current lesson, is that it is customary to use the poetry, and is not customary to use anything else, and that to do so would expose himself to ridicule. Besides this, poetry makes complete sense by itself (if the pupil could only comprehend it) while isolated characters do not. The consequence of this method of instruction is that hundreds of thousands of pupils leave school knowing very little about characters, and much of what they do know is wrong. The method of teaching characters explains in part what seems at first almost unaccountable, that so few ordinary persons know characters accurately. It is an inevitable incident of the system, that to write some of the commonest characters, referring to objects used in daily life, is quite beyond the power of a man who has been for years at school, for he has never seen them either written or printed. Thus in taking an inventory of household property, there is not one chance in ten that the characters will be written correctly, for they do not occur in the Classics, nor in T’ang Dynasty poetry. Not only so, but it is altogether probable that an average graduate of the village school cannot indite a common letter, or set down a page of any miscellaneous characters, without writing something wrong.

If the teacher is a man of any reputation, he has a multitude of acquaintances, fellow students, any of whom may happen to call upon him at the schoolhouse, where he lives. Chinese etiquette requires that certain attentions should be paid to visitors of this sort, and while it is perfectly understood that school routine ought not to be broken in upon by unnecessary interruptions, as a matter of fact in most schools these interruptions are a serious nuisance, to which the teacher often cannot and oftener will not put a stop.

The system here described, by which the whole time of the master is supposed to be devoted to instructing his pupils, makes no allowances for any absences whatever. Yet there are few human beings blessed with such perfect health, and having such an entire freedom from all relations to the external world, as to be able to conduct a school of this kind month after month, with no interruptions.

It frequently happens that the teacher is himself one of the literary army who attends the examinations in hope of a degree. If this is the case, his absences for this purpose will often prove a serious interruption to the routine of the school. Some patrons appear to consider that this disadvantage is balanced by the glory which would accrue to their school in case its master were to take his degree while in their service. Moreover, aside from the regular vacations at the feast times and harvests, every teacher is sure to be called home from time to time by some emergency in his own family, or in his village, or among his numerous friends. Under these circumstances he provides a substitute if he happens to find it convenient to do so. Such are nicknamed “remote-cousin-preceptors” (su-pai lao-shih), and are not likely to be treated with much respect. When the teacher is absent for a day, instead of dismissing the school, he perhaps leaves it theoretically in the charge of one of the older scholars. The inevitable consequence is, that at such times the work of the school is reduced not merely to zero, but to forty degrees below zero. The scholars simply bar the front door, and amuse themselves in using the teacher’s ferule for a bat, and the Trimetrical Classic, or the Confucian Analects, for a ball. The demoralization attending such lawlessness is evidently most injurious to the efficiency of the school.

The irregularities of the master’s attendance are more than matched by those of his scholars. The pressure of domestic duties is such that many poorer families on one pretence or another are constantly taking their children out of school. To-day the pupil must rake up fuel, next week he must lead the animal that draws the seed drill, a month later he is taken for two or three days to visit some relatives. Not long after there is in the village, or perhaps in some neighbouring village, a theatrical entertainment, but in either case the whole school expects a vacation to go and see the sport. As already remarked when describing theatricals, if this vacation were denied they would take it themselves. Besides interruptions of this sort, there are the spring and autumn harvests, when the school is dismissed for two months and perhaps for three, and the New Year vacation, which lasts from the middle of the twelfth moon to the latter part of the first moon. But, extensive as are these intermissions of study, the dog-days are not among them, and the poor pupils go droning on through all the heat of summer.

As the Chinese child has no Saturdays, no Sundays, no recesses, no variety of study, and no promotion from grade to grade, nor from one school to another, it is probable that he has enough schooling such as it is. As every scholar is a class by himself, the absence of one does not interfere with the study of another. Even if two lads happen to be reciting in the same place, they have no more connection with each other than any other two pupils. Of such a thing as classification the teacher has never heard, and the irregular attendance of the scholars would, he tells you, prevent it, even were it otherwise possible. Owing to the time required to hear so many recitations, an ordinary school does not contain more than eight or ten pupils, and twenty are regarded as beyond one teacher’s capacity.

There is very little which is really intellectual in any part of the early schooling of an ordinary Chinese boy. As a rule, the teacher does not concern himself with his pupils further than to drag them over a specified course, or at least to attempt to do so. The parents of the lad are equally indifferent, or even more so. If the father himself can read, he remembers that he learned to do so by a long and thorny road, and he thinks it proper that his son should traverse it likewise. If the father can not read, he at least recognizes the fact that he knows nothing at all about the matter, and that it is not his business to interfere. The teacher is hired to teach let him do it. As for visiting the school to see what progress his son is making, he never heard of such a thing, and he would not do it if he had heard of it. The teacher would say in his manner if not in his words, “What business have you here?

A sufficient reason for spending all his time in the schoolroom is the fact that it is practically impossible for a Chinese child to do any studying amid the distractions of a Chinese household. Even for adult scholars it is almost always difficult to do so. At his home the pupil has no mental stimulus of any sort, no books, magazines or papers, and even if he had them, his barren studies at school would not have fitted him to comprehend such literature.

The object of Chinese education is to pump up the wisdom of the ancients into the minds of the moderns. In order to do this, however, it is necessary to keep the stream in a constant flow, at whatever cost, else much of the preceding labour is lost. According to Chinese theory, or practice, a school which should only be in session for six months of the year, would be a gross absurdity. The moment a child fails to attend school, he is supposed (and with reason) to become “wild.”

The territory to be traversed is so vast that the most unremitting diligence is absolutely indispensable. This continues true, however advanced the pupil may be; as witness the popular saying, “Ten years a graduate (without studying), and one is a nobody.” The same saying is current in regard to the second degree, and with not less reason.

The necessity of confining one’s attention to study alone, leads to the selection of one or more of the sons of a family as the recipient of an education. The one who is chosen is clothed in the best style which his family circumstances will allow, his little cue neatly tied with a red string, and he is provided, as we have seen, with a copy of the Hundred Surnames and of the Trimetrical Classic. This young Confucianist is the bud and prototype of the adult scholar. His twin brother, who has not been chosen to this high calling, roams about the village all summer in the costume of the garden of Eden, gathering fuel, swimming in the village mud-hole, busy when he must be busy, idle when he can be idle. He may be incomparably more useful to his family than the other, but so far as education goes he is only a “wild” lad.

If the student is quick and bright, and gives good promise of distinguishing himself, he stands an excellent chance of being spoiled by thoughtless praises. “That boy,” remarks a bystander to a stranger, and in the lad’s hearing, “is only thirteen years old, but he has read all the Four Books, and all of the Book of Poetry, etc. By the time he is twenty, he is sure to become a graduate.” When questioned as to his attainments, the lad replies without any of that pertness and forwardness which too often characterize Western youth, but, as he has been taught to do, in a bashful and modest manner, and in a way to win at once the good opinion of the stranger. His manner leaves nothing to be desired, but in reality he is the victim of the most dangerous of all flatteries, the inferiority of what is around him. In order to hold his relative position, it is necessary, as already pointed out, to bestow the most unwearied attention on his books. His brothers are all day in the fields, or learning a trade, or are assistants to some one engaged in business, as the case may be, but he is doing nothing, absolutely and literally nothing, but study.

So much confinement, and such close application from the very earliest years, can scarcely fail to show their effects in his physical constitution. His brother hoes the ground, bare-headed throughout the blistering heats of July, but such exposure to the sun would soon give him the headache. His brother works with more or less energy all day long (with intermittent sequence), but were he compelled to do the same the result would not improbably be that he would soon begin to spit blood. That he is physically by no means so strong as he once was, is undeniable. He has very little opportunity to learn anything of practical affairs, and still less disposition. The fact that a student has no time to devote to ordinary affairs is not so much the reason of his ignorance, as is the fact that for him to do common things is not respectable. Among the four classes of mankind, scholars rank first, farmers, labourers, and merchants being at a great remove.

The two things that a pupil is sure to learn in a Chinese school are obedience, and the habit of concentrating his attention upon whatever he is reading, to the entire disregard of surrounding distractions. So far as they go these are valuable acquirements, although they can scarcely be termed an education.

Every pupil is naturally anxious to get into the class of scholars, and this he does as soon as he gives all his time to study; for whether he is a real scholar or not, he plainly belongs to neither of the other classes. We are told in the Confucian Analects that the master said, “The accomplished scholar is not a utensil.” The commentators tell us that this means that whereas a utensil can only be put to one use, the accomplished scholar can be used in all varieties of ways, ad omnia paratus, as Dr. Legge paraphrases it. This expression is sometimes quoted in banter, as if in excuse for the general incapacity of the Chinese literary man he is not a utensil. The scholar, even the village scholar, not only does not plow and reap, but he does not in any way assist those who perform these necessary acts. He does not harness an animal, nor feed him, nor drive a cart, nor light a fire, nor bring water in short, so far as physical exertion goes, he does as nearly as possible nothing at all. “The scholar is not a utensil,” he seems to be thinking all day long, and every day of his life, until one wishes that at times he would be a utensil, that he might sometimes be of use. He will not even move a bench, nor make any motion that looks like labour. Almost the only exception to this general incapacity, is an exception for which we should hardly be prepared; it is a knowledge, in many cases of the art of cooking, in so far as it is necessary for the practice of the scholar, who often teaches in a village other than his home, where he generally lives by himself in the schoolhouse.

We have already alluded to the great oversupply of teachers of schools. Many of them, owing to their lack of adaptation to their environment, are chronically on the verge of starvation. It is a venerable maxim that poverty and pride go side by side, and nowhere does this saying find more forcible exemplification than in the case of a poor Chinese scholar. He has nothing, he can do nothing, and in most cases he is unwilling to do anything. In short, viewed from the standpoint of political economy, he is good for nothing.

One specimen of this class the writer once saw, who had been set at work by a benevolent foreigner molding coal balls, an employment which doubtless appeared to him and to the spectators as the substantial equivalent of the chain-gang, and yet, to the surprise of his employer, he accepted it rather than starve. A certain scholar of this description was so poor that he was obliged to send his family back to her mother’s house, to save them from starvation. The wife, being a skillful needle-woman, was employed at good wages in a foreign family, but when her husband heard of it he was very angry, not because he was unwilling to have her associate with foreigners, who he was kind enough to say were very respectable, but because it was very unsuitable that she, the wife of a scholar, should work for hire! The wife had the sense and spirit to reply that, if these were his views, it might be well for him to provide his family with something to eat, to which he replied with the characteristic and ultimate argument for refractory wives, namely, a sound beating!

When one of these helpless and impecunious scholars calls upon a foreigner whom he has met only once, or perhaps never even seen, he will not improbably begin by quoting a wilderness of classical learning to display his great albeit unrecognized abilities. He tells you that among the five relations of prince and minister, husband and wife, father and son, brother to brother, and friend to friend, his relationship to you is of the latter type. That it would do violence to his conception of the duties of this relation, if he did not let you know of his exigencies. He shows you his thin trousers and other garments concealed under his scholar’s long gown, and frankly volunteers that any contribution, large or small, prompted by such friendship as ours to him will be most acceptable.

While the conditions of the life of the village scholar are thus unfavourable for his success in earning a living, they are not more favourable to his own intellectual development. The chief, if not the exclusive sources of his mental alimentation have been the Chinese Classics. These are in many respects remarkable products of the human mind. Their negative excellencies, in the absence of anything calculated to corrupt the morals, are great. To the lofty standard of morality which they fix, may be ascribed in great measure their unbounded and perennial influence, an influence which has no doubt powerfully tended to the preservation of the empire. Apart from the incalculable influence which they have exerted on the countless millions of China for many ages, there are many passages which in and of themselves are remarkable.

But taken as a whole, the most friendly critic finds it impossible to avoid the conviction, which forces itself upon him at every page, that regarded as the sole text-books for a great nation they are fatally defective. They are too desultory, and too limited in their range. Epigrammatic moral maxims, scraps of biography, nodules of a sort of political economy, bits of history, rules of etiquette, and a great variety of other subjects, are commingled without plan, symmetry, or progress of thought. The chief defects, as already suggested, are the triviality of many of the subjects, the limitation in range, and the inadequacy of treatment. When the Confucian Analects are compared, for example, with the Memorabilia of Xenephon, when the Doctrine of the Mean is placed by the side of the writings of Aristotle and Plato, and the bald notation of the Spring and Autumn Annals by the side of the history of Thucydides, when the Book of Odes is contrasted with the Iliad, the Odyssey, or even the A†neid, it is impossible not to marvel at the measure of success which has attended the use of such materials in China.

Considering what, in spite of their defects, the Classics have done for China, it is not surprising that they have come to be regarded with a bibliolatry to which the history of mankind affords few parallels. It is extremely difficult for us to comprehend the effect of a narrow range of studies on the mind, because our experience furnishes no instance to which the case of the Chinese can be compared. Let us for a moment imagine a Western scholar, who had enjoyed a profound mathematical education, and no other education whatever. Every one would consider such a mind ill-balanced. Yet much of the ill effect of such a narrow education would be counteracted. Mathematical certainty is infallible certainty; mathematics leads up to astronomy, and a thorough acquaintance with astronomy is of itself a liberal education. Besides this, no man in Western lands can fail to come into vital contact with other minds. And there is what Goethe called the Zeit-geist, or Spirit of the Age, which exerts a powerful influence upon him. But in China, a man who is educated in a narrow line, is likely, though by no means certain, to remain narrow, and there is no Chinese Zeit-geist, or if there is, like other ghosts, it seldom interposes in human affairs.

The average Chinese scholar is at a great disadvantage in the lack of the apparatus for study. In a Western land, any man with the slightest claim to be called a scholar, would be able to answer in a short time, a vast range of questions, with intelligent accuracy. This he would do, not so much by means of his own miscellaneous information, as by his books of reference. The various theories as to the location of the Garden of Eden, the dimensions of the Great Pyramid, the probable authorship of the Junius Letters, the highest latitude reached in polar exploration, the names of the generals who conducted the fourth Peloponnesian war all these, and thousands of similar matters, could be at once elucidated by means of a dictionary of antiquities, a manual of ancient or modern history, a biographical dictionary, and an encyclopedia. To the ordinary Chinese scholar, such helps as these are entirely wanting. He owns very few books; for in the country where printing was invented, books are the luxury of the rich.

The standard dictionary of Chinese, is that compiled two centuries ago in the K’ang Hsi period, and is alleged to contain 44,449 characters, but of these an immense number are obsolete and synonomous, and only serve the purpose of bewildering the student. Within the past two generations the Chinese language has undergone a remarkable development, owing to the contact of China with her neighbours. All the modern sciences have obtruded themselves, but there is no interest in the coordination of these new increments to their language on the part of Chinese scholars, to whom K’ang Hsi’s lexicon is amply sufficient.

In order to attain success in Chinese composition, it is necessary to be acquainted with the force of every character, as a means to which, access to this standard dictionary, would seem to be indispensable. Yet, though invaluable, it is not in the possession of one scholar in fifty. Its place is generally taken by a small compendium, analogous to what we should call a pocket-manual, in which the characters are arranged according to the sound, and not according to the radicals, as in K’ang Hsi.

Pupils are seldom taught the 214 radicals, and many persons who have spent years at school have no idea how to use K’ang Hsi’s dictionary, when it is put into their hands. Within a circle of eight or ten villages, there may be only a single copy, and if it is necessary to obtain more accurate information than is to be had in the pocket-dictionary, the inquirer must go to the village where there is a copy of K’ang Hsi, and “borrow light” there.

But such an extreme measure is seldom considered necessary. The incessant study of the Classics has made all the characters in them familiar. Those who write essays can compose them with the aid of these characters only, and as for miscellaneous characters that is, those not found in the Classics why should one care for them? A good edition of K’ang Hsi, with clear type and no false characters, might cost, if new, as much as the village schoolmaster would receive for his whole year’s work.

At examinations below that for the second degree, a knowledge of history is said to be as superfluous as an acquaintance with the dictionary. Nine out of ten candidates at the lower examinations know little of the history of China, except what they have learned from the Trimetrical Classic, or picked up from the classics. The perusal of compendiums of history, even if such are available, is the employment of leisure, and the composition of essays as a business once entered upon, there is no leisure.

One occasionally meets a teacher who has made a specialty of history, but these men are rare. Historical allusions often lie afloat in the minds of Chinese scholars, like snatches of poetry, the origin and connection of which are unknown. Many scholars who have the knack of picking up and appropriating such spiculA| of knowledge, acquire the art of dextrously weaving them into examination essays and owe their success to this circumstance alone, whereas if they were examined upon the historical connection of the incidents which they have thus cited, they would be unable to reply. But as long as the use of such allusions in essays is felicitous, no questions are asked, and the desired end is attained. “The Cat that catches the Rat is a good Cat,” says the adage, and it is no matter if the Cat is blind, and the Rat is a dead one!

The Peking Gazette occasionally contains memorials from officers asking that certain sums be set apart for the maintenance of a library in some central city, to aid poor students in the prosecution of their studies. If there were libraries on a large scale in every district city, they would be valuable and much-needed helps. But so far as appears, for all practical purposes, they scarcely exist at all.

The Chinese method of writing history, is what Sydney Smith called the antediluvian, that, namely, in which the writer proceeds upon the hypothesis that the life of the reader is to be as long as that of Methuselah. Projected upon this tremendous plan, the standard histories are not only libraries in size, but are enormously expensive in price. In a certain District (or County) it is a well-known fact that there is only one such history, which belongs to a wealthy family, and which one could no more “borrow,” than he could borrow the family graveyard, and which even if it could be borrowed would prove to be a wilderness of learning. It is indeed a proverb, that “He that would know things ancient and modern, must peruse five cartloads of books.”

But even after this labour, his range of learning, gauged by Occidental standards, would be found singularly inadequate. According to Chinese ideas, the history of the reigning dynasty is not a proper object of knowledge, and histories generally end at the close of the Ming Dynasty, about 250 years ago. If any one has a curiosity to learn of what has happened since that time, he can be gratified by waiting a few decades or centuries, when the dynasty shall have changed, and the records of the Great Pure Dynasty can be impartially written. Imagine a History of England which should call a halt at the House of Hanover!

The result of the various causes here indicated, combined with the grave defects in the system of education, is that multitudes of Chinese scholars know next to nothing about matters directly in the line of their studies, and in regard to which we should consider ignorance positively disgraceful. A venerable teacher remarked to the writer with a charming naA-vetA(C) that he had never understood the allusions in the Trimetrical Classic (which stands at the very threshold of Chinese study), until at the age of sixty he had an opportunity to read a Universal History, prepared by a missionary, in which for the first time Chinese history was made accessible to him.

The encyclopedias and works of reference, which the Chinese have compiled in overwhelming abundance, are as useless to the common scholar as the hieroglyphics of Egypt. He never saw these works, and he has never heard of them. The information condensed into a small volume like Mayers’ Chinese Reader’s Manual, could not be drawn from a whole platoon of ordinary scholars. Knowledge of this sort the scholar must pick up as he goes along, remembering everything that he reads or hears; and much of it will be derived from cheap little books, badly printed, and full of false characters, prepared on no assignable plan, and covering no definite ground.

The cost of Chinese books being practically prohibitory to teachers who are poor, they are sometimes driven to copy them, as was the habit of the monks in the middle ages. The writer is well acquainted with a schoolmaster who spent the spare time of several years in copying a work in eight octavo volumes, involving the notation of somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 characters, to the great injury of his health and of his eyesight.

The whole plan of Chinese study has been aptly called intellectual infanticide. The outcome of it is that it is quite possible that the village scholar who has the entire Classics at his tongue’s end, who has been examined before the Literary Chancellor more times than he can remember, may not know fact from fiction, nor history from mythology. He is, perhaps, not certain whether a particular historical character lived in the Han Dynasty or in the Ming Dynasty, though the discrepancy involves a matter of 1,000 or 1,200 years. He does not profess to be positive whether a given name represents a real person, or whether it may not perhaps have been merely one of the dramatis personA| of a theatrical play.

He cannot name the governors or governors-general of three out of the eighteen provinces, nor does he know the capitals of a third of those provinces. It is enough for him that any particular place in China, the location of which he is ignorant of, is “south-side.” He never studied any geography ancient or modern, he never saw an ancient atlas nor a modern map of China never in fact heard of one.

An acquaintance of the writer’s, who was a pupil in a mission school, sent to a reading man of his village a copy of a Universal Geography in the Mandarin Colloquial, the explanations of which would seem to render mistake as to its purport almost impossible. Yet the recipient of the work, after protracted study of it, could make nothing whatever of the volume, and called to his aid two friends, one of whom was a literary graduate, and all three of them puzzled over the maps and text for three days, at the end of which time they all gave the matter up as an insoluble riddle, and determined in despair to await the return of the donor of the book, to explain what it was about!

This trait of intellectual obtuseness, is far enough from being exceptional in Chinese scholars. With a certain class of them, a class easily recognized, it is the rule, and it is a natural outcome of the mode and process of their education. Although the education of a Chinese scholar is almost exclusively devoted to acquiring facility of composition, it is composition of one variety only, the examination essay. Outside of examination halls, however, the examination essay, even in China, plays a comparatively small part, and a person whose sole forte is the production of such essays often shows to very little advantage in any other line of business. He cannot write a letter without allowing the “seven empty particles” to tyrannize over his pen. He employs a variety of set forms, such as that he has received your epistle and respectfully bathed himself before he ventured to open it (a very exaggerated instance of hyperbole), but he very likely neglects to inform you from what place he is writing and if he is reporting, for example, a lawsuit, he probably omits altogether several items of vital importance to a correct comprehension of the case. In a majority of instances he is miserably poor, often has no employment whatever, and no prospect of obtaining any. If he becomes acquainted with a foreigner, you are aware, before he has made three calls, that he is in quest of a situation. You inquire what he can do, and with a pathetic simplicity he assures you that he can do some things, and is really not a useless person. He can indeed, write from a copy, or from dictation if an eye be constantly kept upon him to prevent the notation of wrong characters. But it will not be surprising if his employer finds that at whatever task he is set, he either does it ill, or cannot do it at all.

There are several criticisms which the average Occidental is sure to make on the average Chinese schoolmaster. He always lacks initiative and will seldom do anything without explicit directions. He is also painfully deficient in finality, especially in the statement of his own affairs, often consuming an hour wheeling in concentric circles about a point to which he should have come in three minutes that is, had he been constructed intellectually as most Westerners are. Yet he has undoubted intellectual abilities, not frequently surprising one by the keenness and justice of his criticisms and comments. But his mind has been trained for one line of work, and often for that alone. Every one knows that the minds of the Chinese are not by nature analytic; neither are they synthetic. They may suppose themselves to have the clearest perception of the way in which a statement ought to be made, but a whole platoon of teachers will not seldom spend several days in working over and over an epitome of some matter of business which happens to be somewhat complicated, and after all with results unsatisfactory to themselves, and still more so to the Occidental who fails to understand why it could not have been finished in two hours. The same phenomenon is often witnessed in their efforts to assimilate unfamiliar works which are not geographical. If a reading man is invited to peruse one and make an abstract of it, he generally declines, remarking that he does not know how, a proposition which he can speedily prove with a certainty equal to any demonstration in Euclid.

The inborn conservatism of the Chinese race is exhibited in the average literary man, whatever the degree of his attainments. To change his accustomed way of doing anything is to give his intellectual faculties a wrench akin to physical dislocation of a hip-bone. Chinese writing is in perpendicular columns, and if horizontal reads from right to left the reverse of English. A fossilized Chinese whom the writer set to noting down sentences in a ruled foreign blank-book could not be induced to follow the lines as directed, but wished to make columns to which he was used. When the foreign way was insisted upon, he simply turned the book partly around and wrote on the lines perpendicularly as before! He would not be a party to violent rearrangement of the ancient symbols of thought. Such a man’s mind resembles an obsolete high bicycle very good if one but knows how to work it, but not quite safe for any others. There is another similarity likewise in the circumstance that many Chinese who have some degree of scholarship are not expecting to employ their intellectual faculties except when they happen to be called for. One is often told by Chinese who have gone from home for some considerable time, that he cannot read something which has been offered to him, as he has left his glasses at home, not supposing that he should have any use for them. A greater intellectual contrast between the East and the West it might not be easy to name.

To almost all Chinese the form of a written character appears to be of indefinitely greater importance than its meaning. Those who are learning to read, or who can read only imperfectly, are generally so completely absorbed in the mere enunciation of a character, that they will not and probably cannot pay the smallest attention to any explanation as to its purport, the consideration of which appears to be regarded as of no consequence whatever, if not an interruption. But the scholar and the new beginner have this admirable talent in common, that they are almost always able completely to abstract themselves from their surroundings, disregarding all distractions. This valuable faculty, as already remarked and a phenomenally developed verbal memory are perhaps the most enviable results of the educational process which we are describing. As an excellent example, however, of the degree to which verbal memory extinguishes the judgment, may be mentioned a country schoolmaster (a literary graduate) whom the writer interviewed in a dispensary waiting-room as to the respective deserts of Chou, the tyrant whose crimes put an end to the Ancient Shang Dynasty, and Pi Kan, a relative whom Chou ordered disemboweled in mere wantonness in order to see if a Sage really has seven openings in his heart. The teacher recollected the incident perfectly, and cited a passage from the Classics referring to it, but declined to express any judgment on the merits of these men as he had forgotten what “the small characters” (the commentary) said about them!

We have already adverted to some of the principal defects in the routine of Chinese schools, but there is another which should not be omitted. There is scarcely a man, woman or child in China, who will not spend a considerable fraction of life in handling brass cash, in larger or smaller quantities. It is a matter of great importance to each individual, to be able to reckon, if not rapidly, at least correctly, so as to save trouble, and what is to them of far more importance, money. It seems almost incredible that for instruction in this most necessary of arts, there is no provision whatever. To add, to subtract, to divide, to multiply, to know what to do with decimal fractions, these are daily necessities of every one in China, and yet these are things that no one teaches. Such processes, like the art of bookkeeping in Western lands fifty years ago, must be learned by practical experience in shops and places of business. The village schoolmaster not only does not teach the use of the abacus, or reckoning board, but it is by no means certain that he understands it himself. Imagine a place in England or in the United States where the schoolboy is taught nothing of the rules of arithmetic at school, and where he is obliged, if he desires such knowledge, to learn the simple rules of addition, etc., from one person, those for compound numbers from another person, not improbably in a distant village, the measurement of land from yet a third individual, no one of them being able to give him all the help he requires.

The Chinese reckoning board is no doubt a very ingenious contrivance for facilitating computation, but it is nevertheless a very clumsy one. It has the fatal defect of leaving no trace of the processes through which the results have been reached, so that if any mistake occurs, it is necessary to repeat them all, on the reiterative principle of the House that Jack Built, until the answer is, or is supposed to be correct. That all the complicated accounts of a great commercial people like the Chinese, should be settled only through such a medium, seems indeed singular. An expert arrives at his conclusions with surprising celerity, but even those who are familiar with ordinary reckoning, become puzzled the moment that a problem is presented to them beyond the scope of the ordinary rules. If one adult receives a pound of grain every ten days, and a child half as much, what amount should be allotted to 227 adults and 143 children, for a month and a half? Over a problem as simple as this, we have seen a group of Chinese, some of whom had pretensions to classical scholarship, wrestle for half an hour, and after all no two of them reached the same conclusion. Indeed the greater their learning, the less fitted do the Chinese seem to be, in a mathematical way, to struggle with their environment.

The object of the teacher is to compel his pupils, first to Remember, secondly, to Remember, thirdly and evermore to Remember. For every scholar, as we have seen, is theoretically a candidate for the district examinations, where he must write upon themes selected from any one of a great variety of books. He must, therefore, be prepared to recall at a moment’s notice, not only the passage itself, but also its connections, and the explanations of the commentary, as a prerequisite for even attempting an essay.

Under the conditions of the civil service examinations, as they have been conducted for many hundred years, a system of school instruction like the one here described, or which shall at least produce the same results, is an imperative necessity in China. A reform cannot begin anywhere until a reform begins everywhere. The excellence of the present system is often assumed and in proof, the great number of distinguished scholars which it produces, is adduced. But, on the other hand, it is absolutely necessary to take into account the innumerable multitudes who derive little or no benefit from their schooling. Nothing is more common than to meet men who, although they have spent from one to ten years at school, when asked if they can read, reply with literal truth that their knowledge of characters has been “laid aside” in other words they have forgotten almost everything that they once knew, and are now become “staring blind men,” an expression which is a synonym for one who cannot read.

It is a most significant fact that the Chinese themselves recognize the truth that their school system tends to benumb the mental faculties, turning the teachers into machines, and the pupils into parrots. On the supposition that all the scholars were to continue their studies, and were eventually to be examined for a degree, it might be difficult to suggest any system which would take the place of the one now in use, in which a most capacious memory is a principal condition of success.

In the Village School, however, it is within bounds to estimate that not one in twenty of the scholars and more probably, not three in a hundred have any reasonable prospect of carrying their studies to anything like this point. The practical result, therefore, is to compel at least ninety-seven scholars to pursue a certain routine, simply because it is the only known method by which three other scholars can compete for a degree. In other words, nineteen pupils are compelled to wear a heavy cast-iron yoke, in order to keep company with a twentieth, who is trying to get used to it as a step towards obtaining a future name! If this inconvenient inequality is pointed out to teachers or to patrons, and if they are asked whether it would not be better to adopt, for the nineteen who will never go to the examinations, a system which involves less memorizing, and a wider range of learning in the brief time which is all that most of the pupils can spend at school, they reply, with perfect truth, that so far as they are aware there is no other system; that even if the patrons desired to make the experiment (which would never be the case), they could find no teacher to conduct it; and that even if a teacher should wish to institute such a reform (which would never happen), he would find no one to employ him.

The extreme difficulty which men of some education often find in keeping from starvation, gives rise to a class of persons known as Strolling Scholars, (yu hsiao), who travel about the country vending paper, pictures, lithographs of tablets, pens and ink. These individuals are not to be confounded with travelling pedlars, who, though they deal in the same articles, make no pretension to learning, and generally convey their goods on a wheelbarrow, whereas the Strolling Scholar cannot manage anything larger than a pack.

When a Strolling Scholar reaches a schoolhouse, he enters, lowers his bundle, and makes a profound bow to the teacher, who (though much displeased at his appearance) must return the courtesy. If there are large pupils, the stranger bows to them and addresses them as his Younger Brothers. The teacher then makes some inquiries as to his name, etc. If he turns out to be a mere pretender, without real scholarship, the teacher drops the conversation, and very likely leaves the schoolroom. This is a tacit signal to the larger scholars to get rid of the visitor. They place a few cash on the table, perhaps not more than five, or even three, which the Strolling Scholar picks up, and with a bow departs. If he sells anything, his profits are of the most moderate description perhaps three cash on each pen, and two cash on each cake of ink. With a view to this class of demands, a small fund is sometimes kept on hand by the larger scholars, who compel the younger ones to contribute to it.

If, however, the Strolling Scholar is a scholar in fact, as well as in name, so that his attainments become apparent, the teacher is obliged to treat him with much greater civility. Some of these roving pundits make a specialty of historical anecdotes, and miscellaneous knowledge, and in a general conversation with the teacher, the latter, who has not improbably confined himself to the beaten routine of classical study, is at a disadvantage. In this case, other scholars of the village are perhaps invited in to talk with the stranger, who may be requested to write a pair of scrolls, and asked to take a meal with the teacher, a small present in money being made to him on his departure.

It is related that a Strolling Scholar of this sort, being present when a teacher was explaining the Classics, deliberately took off his shoes and stockings in presence of the whole school. Being reproved by the teacher for this breach of propriety, he replied that his dirty stockings had as good an “odour” as the teacher’s classical explanations. To this the teacher naturally replied by a challenge to the stranger to explain the Classics himself, that they might learn from him. The Strolling Scholar, who was a person of considerable ability, had been waiting for just such an opportunity, and taking up the explanation, went on with it in such an elegant style, “every sentence being like an examination essay,” that the teacher was amazed and ashamed, and entertained him handsomely. If a teacher were to treat with disrespect one whose scholarship was obviously superior to his own, he would expose himself to disrespect in turn, and might be disgraced before his own pupils, an occurrence which he is very anxious to avoid.

In China the relation between teacher and pupil is far more intimate than in Western lands. One is supposed to be under a great weight of obligation to the master who has enlightened his darkness, and if this master should be at any time in need of assistance, it is thought to be no more than the duty of the pupil to afford it. This view of the case is obviously one which it is for the interest of teachers to perpetuate, and the result of the theory and of the attendant practice is that there are many decayed teachers roving about, living on the precarious generosity of their former pupils.