Read CHAPTER XXIII of Village Life in China A Study in Sociology, free online book, by Arthur H. Smith, on


The Chinese are as practical a people as ever had a national existence, and we know of no reason to suppose that the Chinese ever had the least doubt that a substantial equality of the sexes in point of numbers is a condition of the continued propagation of the race. Certainly no race was ever more careful to keep itself propagated, or has ever met with greater success in the undertaking. Yet the Chinese are almost the only people boasting an ancient and developed civilization who despise their own daughters who are married into the families of others, and are by that process lost to their own because according to ancient custom they can offer no sacrifices for their parents when the latter are dead. It is for this reason that the popular saying declares that the most ideally excellent daughter (literally a daughter with the virtues of the eighteen Lo-hans) is not equal to a splay-footed son. This sentiment is endorsed by all Chinese consciously and unconsciously, in a manner to show that it is interwoven with the very fibres of their being. Its ultimate root is the same as that of so many other human opinions, pure selfishness.

The Chinese girl when she makes her first appearance in the world is very likely to be unwelcome, though this is by no means invariably the case. The ratio in which fortune-tellers allot happiness is generally about five sons to two daughters. “Whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” With theories like those of the Chinese about the unavailability of daughters for the performance of ancestral rites, and with the Chinese nature as it is, it is not to be wondered at that the great pressure of poverty leads to the crime of infanticide upon an enormous scale. For aught that appears, this has always been the case. It is not that the Chinese conscience does not recognize the murder of girl babies as wrong, but that the temptation to such murder, especially the temptation to the disappointed and often abused mother, is too strong to be resisted by any motives which have the opportunity to act upon her.

Much has already been done by those who have had most opportunity to learn the facts, toward exhibiting the real practice of the Chinese in the matter of destroying female infants. Yet no more can be safely predicated than that this is a crime which to some extent everywhere prevails, and in some places to such a degree as seriously to affect the proportion of the sexes. It seems to be most common in the maritime provinces of the southern part of China, in some districts of which it is by the Chinese themselves regarded as a terrible and a threatening evil. Native tract societies publish books exhorting the people against the practice, and magistrates occasionally issue proclamations forbidding it, but it is evident that the nature of the offence is such that no laws can touch it, and nothing short of the elevation of the mothers themselves to a far higher point of view than they now occupy, can have any permanent effect upon Chinese female infanticide.

Next to the destruction of the lives of female infants, the Chinese practice most revolting to our Western ideas is the sale of their daughters, at all periods from infancy up to a marriageable age. The usages of different parts of the empire vary widely, but the sale of girls, like infanticide, seems to flourish most in the maritime provinces of the south, where it is conducted as openly as any other traffic. That the parents are generally impelled to this extreme step simply by the pressure of poverty we are quite ready to believe. Yet the knowledge that the girl must be separated from her family at a later period, and that this parting is irrevocable, must tend to reconcile many Chinese parents to an anticipation, by a few years, of the inevitable. Of the miseries which girls who have been thus sold are likely to endure, it is unnecessary to speak in detail, but enough is known on the subject to lead us to regard the practice with horror. If the parents do not feel able to keep their daughter until she is old enough to be married, and yet do not wish to sell her, Chinese custom has invented another expedient, which is a compromise between the two. This is the well-known “rearing-marriage,” by which the girl is made over to the family into which she is to be married, and is by that family brought up, and married whenever their convenience dictates. There are manifest and grave objections to this practice, but there can be no doubt that it is far better than the custom of child marriages, which lead to so much wretchedness in India. In some instances the relations with the family of the girl are wholly broken off, when she is taken for a “rearing-marriage,” and in all cases it is regarded as a confession of poverty and weakness, which places the girl’s family at much more than their usual disadvantage, at best sufficiently great. When a girl is brought up in the family the son of which is to become her future husband, it is of course wholly out of the question that the parties should not have the fullest opportunities to become acquainted with each other’s disposition, however they may be forbidden by usage to speak to one another. There is and can be very little sentiment about Chinese matches, but anything which tends to make the parties to one of these matches better able to adapt themselves to the inevitable friction of after life, cannot fail to have its advantages. Whether the parties to a “rearing-marriage” are or are not on the whole happier than those married in the ordinary way, is a question which no Chinese would be likely to ask, for the reason that he has no associations connecting marriage with happiness, but rather the reverse, and if the question is proposed by a foreigner, he is not likely to be made much the wiser by the replies which he receives.

The practice of binding the feet of Chinese girls is familiar to all who have the smallest knowledge of China, and requires but the barest mention. It is almost universal throughout China, yet with some conspicuous exceptions, as among the Hakkas of the south, an exception for which it is not easy to account. The custom forcibly illustrates some of the innate traits of Chinese character, especially the readiness to endure great and prolonged suffering in attaining to a standard, merely for the sake of appearances. There is no other non-religious custom peculiar to the Chinese which is so utterly opposed to the natural instincts of mankind, and yet which is at the same time so dear to the Chinese, and which would be given up with more reluctance.

It is well known that the greatest emperor who ever sat upon the throne of China dared not risk his authority in an attempt to put down this custom, although his father had successfully imposed upon the Chinese race the wearing of the queue as a badge of subjection. A quarter of a millennium of Tartar rule seems to have done absolutely nothing toward modifying the practice of foot-binding in favour of the more rational one of the governing race, except to a limited extent in the capital itself. But a few li away from Peking, the old habits hold their iron sway. The only impulse toward reform of this useless and cruel custom originated with foreigners in China, and was long in making itself felt, which it is now, especially in the central part of the empire, beginning to be.

The observations which may be made with regard to the industry of Chinese boys, are equally applicable mutatis mutandis to Chinese girls. In all lands and in all climes, “woman’s work is never done,” and this is most especially true of China, where machinery has not yet expelled the primitive processes of what is literally manufacture, or work by the hand. The care of silk-worms, and the picking, spinning, and weaving of cotton, are largely the labour of women, to which the girls are introduced at a very early age. The sewing for a Chinese family is a serious matter, especially as the number of families who can afford to hire help in this line is a very trifling proportion. But aside from this employment, in which a Chinese girl who expects to be acceptable to the family of her mother-in-law must be expert, girls can also be made useful in almost any line of home work to which the father may be devoted. In the country districts all over the empire, boys and girls alike are sent out to scratch together as much fuel as possible, for the preparation of the food, and this continues in the case of the girls until they are too large to go to any distance from home. It is not an unmeaning appellation, which is given to girls generally, that of ya-t’ou, or “slave-girl,” used just as we should say “daughter.” To a foreigner, this sounds much like the term “nigger” applied to black men, but to the Chinese there is a fitness in the designation, which they refuse to surrender.

With the exception of such limited raids as she may have been able to make in early childhood, and occasional visits to relatives, most Chinese girls never go anywhere to speak of, and live what is literally the existence of a frog in a well. Tens of thousands of them have never been two miles away from the village in which they happened to be born, with the occasional exception of the visit to the mother’s family just mentioned, where they are not improbably regarded as terrible beings who cannot be exterminated, but who are to be as much as possible repressed. If the nieces on the mother’s side are numerous, as is often the case, there is some reason for dread of the visits, on the part of the bread-winners, for no Chinese mother can be dissociated from her flock of children, whose appetites are invariably several horse-power strong, and who, like their elders, are all excessively fond of enjoying the pleasure of eating at some one else’s expense.

It is when the married daughters of a large family have all returned to their parents to spend a few days or weeks, that the most dramatic scenes of childhood occur. Self-control and unselfishness have not been a feature in the culture of any one of the numerous cousins thus brought together in a cluster which frequently resembles those on the inside of a beehive. Each of the young generation has the keenest instinct for getting as much of the best of what is to be had as any one else, and if possible more. This leads to occasional “scenes of confusion, and creature complaints,” in which each small participant publishes his or her version of the particular squabble in piercing tones, which soon summon the whole establishment to the scene of action. Judicious parents would punish the children all round for their complicity in such a quarrel, which is most often based upon alleged or supposed inequalities in distribution of food. But Chinese parents are seldom judicious, and the most that can be expected is that the mother will call off her child or children, and “yell” it, or them. “Yelling” a person is the act of proclaiming in a loud and piercing voice the disapprobation on the part of the “yeller” of the conduct of the “yellee,” often accompanied by reviling language, and frequently also with promises to “beat” and “kill” the said “yellee” in the event of further provocation. These remarks are interpreted by the “yellee” as a hint to stop, a feat which is at length accomplished after a period of more or less spasmodic and convulsive recrimination.

But if, as often happens, each of the mothers feels called upon from a high sense of duty to take a firm stand for the rights of her offspring, the case becomes much more serious. Each of the mothers will then scream simultaneously, to the accompaniment of the wails, yells, and reviling of the whole half-dozen or more of her posterity, while above the general clamour may be distinctly caught the shrill shrieks of the grandmother, whose views, whatever difficulty they may have in getting themselves heard, must eventually prevail when peace once more reigns in the domestic teapot. After one of these family cyclones, the atmosphere gradually becomes cleared again, and things go on as before; but we have known a particularly spirited married daughter, who exhibited her dissatisfaction with the terms of settlement of a dispute of this sort by refusing to speak to her sisters for some days together.

With the humdrum routine of her life at home, the occasional visits to relatives, and now and then a large fair or a theatrical exhibition, the Chinese girl grows to be what we should call a “young schoolgirl,” by which time all her friends begin to be very uneasy about her. This uneasiness, we need scarcely remark, has not the smallest connection with her intellectual nature, which, so far as any culture which it receives is concerned, might as well be non-existent. Unless her father happens to be a schoolmaster, and at home with nothing to do, he never thinks of teaching his daughter to read. Even in the case of boys, this would be exceptional and irregular, but in the case of girls it is felt to be preposterous. And why? asks the incredulous foreigner. It will take the average Chinese a long time to explain the nature of his objection, and when he does so he will not have stated the whole of the case, nor have gone to the root of the matter. The real difficulty is that to educate a girl is like weeding the field of some other man. It is like putting a gold chain around the neck of some one else’s puppy, which may at any moment be whistled off, and then what will have become of the chain? It is a proverbially mean man in China, who, when marrying his daughter, wants to be paid for the food he has wasted upon her up to the date of marriage. But the expression illustrates clearly one of the underlying assumptions of Chinese society, that it is the body of the girl for which the parents are responsible, and not the mind. To almost any Chinese it would probably appear a self-evident proposition that to spend time, strength, and much more money in educating the daughter-in-law of some one else is a sheer waste. But, you say to him, she is your daughter. “Not after she is married,” he replies; “she is theirs, let them educate her themselves if they want her educated.” “Why should I teach her how to read, write and reckon, when it will never do me any good?” With which utilitarian inquiry, the education of most Chinese girls has been banished from human thought for the space of some millenniums.

The anxiety which all her friends begin to feel about a Chinese girl, as soon as she attains any considerable size, is exhibited in the inquiries which are made about her whenever she happens to be spoken of. These inquiries do not concern her character or her domestic accomplishments, much less her intellectual capacity of which she has, theoretically, none to speak of but they may all be summed up in the single phrase, “Is she said?” meaning by the term “said” “betrothed.” If the reply should be in the negative, the intelligence is received in much the same way as we should receive the information that a foreign child had been allowed to grow to the age of sixteen without having been taught anything whatever out of books. “Why?” we should say, “what is the explanation age of this strange neglect?” The instinctive feeling of a Chinese in regard to a girl is that she should be betrothed as soon as possible. This is one of the many points in regard to which it is almost impossible for the Chinese and the Anglo-Saxon to come to terms. To the latter the betrothal of a mere child, scarcely in her teens, is a piece of absolute barbarity.

As soon as a Chinese girl is once betrothed, she is placed in different relations to the universe generally. She is no longer allowed such freedom as hitherto, although that may have been little enough. She cannot go anywhere, because it would be “inconvenient.” She might be seen by some member of the family into which she is to marry, than which it is hardly possible to think of anything more horrible. “Why?” the irrepressible Occidental inquires; and is quenched by the information that “it would not be proper.”

The imminent risk that the girl might in some unguarded moment be actually seen by the family of the future mother-in-law is a reason why so few engagements for girls are made in the town in which the girl lives, an arrangement which would seem to be for the convenience of all parties in a great variety of ways. It would put a stop to the constant deceptions practiced by the middle-women, or professional match-makers, whose only object is to carry through whatever match has been proposed, in order to reap the percentage which will accrue to the agent. It would do away with the waste of time and money involved in transporting brides from one of their homes to the other, often at great inconvenience and loss. It would make the interchange of little courtesies between the families easy and frequent. But for all these advantages the Chinese do not seem to care, and the most frequent explanation of the neglect of them is that there would be the risk already mentioned. When these two families are such as would in the ordinary course of events be likely to meet, nothing is more amusing to a foreigner than to watch the struggles which are made to avert such a catastrophe. One is reminded of some of our childhood’s games, in which one party is “poison” and the other party is liable to be “poisoned” and must at all hazards keep out of the way. The only difference between the cases is that in the Chinese game, each party is afraid of being “poisoned,” and will struggle to prevent it. There is one set of circumstances, however, in which, despite their utmost efforts, Fate is too much both for the poisoners and the poisoned. If during the betrothal a death of an older person takes place in the family of the mother-in-law, it is generally thought necessary that the girl (who is considered as already “belonging” to that family) should be present and should perform the same reverence to the coffin of the deceased as if she had been already married. She is (theoretically) their daughter; why should she not come and lament like the rest? If it is possible to arrange it, however, the marriage will be hastened, in the event of a death of a person belonging to an older generation, even if a later date had been previously set.

To a foreigner, the Chinese habit of early engagements appears to have no single redeeming feature. It hampers both families with no apparent corresponding advantages, if indeed there are advantages of any kind. It assumes, what is far from certain, and often not at all likely, that the relative position of the two families will continue to be the same. This assumption is contradicted by universal experience. Time and change happen to all, and the insecurity of human affairs is nowhere more manifest than in the tenure of Chinese property. Families are going up and coming down all the time. It is a well-settled principle in China that matches should be between those who are in the same general circumstances. Disregard of this rule is sure to bring trouble. But if early betrothals are the practice, the chances of material alteration in the condition of each of the families are greatly increased. When he is engaged, the character of the boy, upon which so much of a bride’s happiness is to depend, has not perhaps been formed. Even if it has been formed, it is generally next to impossible for the girl’s family to learn anything authentic as to what the character is, though to all appearance it would be so easy for them to ascertain by latent methods. But as a rule, it would appear that they do not concern themselves much about the matter after the engagement is proposed and accepted, and at no time do they give it a hundredth part of the investigation which it seems to us to warrant. If the boy becomes a gambler, a profligate, or dissipated in any other way, there is no retreat for the family of the girl, no matter to what extremities they may be driven. Chinese violation of the most ordinary rules of prudence and common sense in the matter of the betrothal of their daughters is, to a Westerner, previous to experience and observation, almost incredible.

A Chinese marriage engagement begins when the red cards have been interchanged, ratifying the agreement. These are in some districts formidable documents, almost as large as a crib-blanket, and are very important as evidence in case of future trouble. It is very rare to hear of the breaking of a marriage engagement in China, though such instances do doubtless occur. In a case of this sort the card of the boy’s family had been delivered to the other family, at which point the transaction is considered to be definitely closed. But an uncle of the betrothed girl, although younger than the father of the girl, created a disturbance and refused to allow the engagement to stand. This made the matter very serious, but as the younger brother was inflexible, there was no help for it but to send the red acceptance card back by the middleman who brought it. This also was a delicate matter, but a Chinese is seldom at a loss for expedients when a disagreeable thing must be done. He selected a time when all the male members of the boy’s family were in the wheatfield, and then threw the card declining the match into the yard of the family of the boy, and went his way. None of the women of the family could read, and it was not until the men returned that it was discovered what the document was. The result was a lawsuit of portentous proportions, in which an accusation was brought against both the father of the girl and against the middleman. This case was finally adjusted by a money payment.

The delivery of the red cards is, as we have remarked, the beginning of the engagement, the culmination being the arrival of the bride in her chair at the home of her husband. The date of this event is generally dependent upon the pleasure of the boy’s family. Whatever accessories the wedding may have, the arrival of the bride is the de facto completion of the contract. This becomes evident in the case of second marriages, where there is often, and even proverbially, no ceremony of any sort which must be observed. The Chinese imperial calendar designates the days which are the most felicitous for weddings, and it constantly happens that on these particular days there will be what the Chinese term “red festivities” in almost every village. This is one of the many instances in which Chinese superstitions are financially expensive. On “lucky days” the hire of sedan-chairs rises with the great demand, while those who disregard luck are able to get better service at a lower price. There is a tradition of a winter in the early part of this century when on a “fortunate day” many brides were being carried to their new homes during the progress of a tremendous snowstorm which blinded the bearers and obliterated the roads. Some of the brides were frozen to death, and many were taken to the wrong places. On the other hand in a blistering summer, cases have been known where the bride was found to be dead when the chair was deposited at the husband’s home. The same bridal sedan-chair may be used many times. In regions where it is the custom to have all weddings in the forenoon, second marriages are put off until the afternoon, or even postponed until the evening, marking their minor importance.

That the only essential feature of a Chinese wedding is the delivery of the bride at her husband’s home, is strikingly shown in those not very uncommon instances in which a Chinese is married without himself being present at all. It is usually considered a very ill omen to change the date set for a wedding, especially to postpone it. Yet it sometimes happens that the young man is at a distance from home, and fails to return in time. Or the bridegroom may be a scholar, and find that the date of an important examination coincides with the day set for his wedding. In such a case he will probably choose “business before pleasure” and the bride will be “taken delivery of” by older members of his family, without disturbing his own literary ambitions.

Of the details of Chinese weddings we do not intend to speak. There are wide variations of usage in almost all particulars, though the general plan is doubtless much the same. The variations appertain, not to the ceremonies of the wedding alone, but to all the proceedings from beginning to end. It is supposed that the explanation of the singular and sometimes apparently unaccountable variation in these and other usages, found all over China, may be due to the persistent survival of customs which have been handed down from the time of the Divided Kingdoms. But very considerable differences in usage are to be met with in regions not far apart, and which were never a part of different kingdoms. The saying runs, “Customs vary every ten li,” which seems at times to be a literal truth.

In the south of China, as we have already remarked, the transfer of money, at the engagement of a daughter, from the parents of the boy to those of the girl, assumes for all practical purposes the aspect of a purchase, which, pure and simple, it often is. But in other parts of China we never hear of such a transaction, but only of a dowry from the bride’s family, much in the manner of Western lands at times. Vast sums are undoubtedly squandered by the very wealthy Chinese at the weddings of their daughters, and it is a common adage that to such expenditures there is no limit. But in weddings in the ordinary walks of life, to which all but a small fraction of the people belong, the impression which will be made upon the observant foreigner will generally be that there is a great amount of shabby gentility, a thin veneer of display beneath which it is easy to see the real texture.

In this as in everything relating to Chinese usages it is impossible to make general statements which shall at the same time be accurate. There are regions in northern China where the money exacted from the family of the future bridegroom is so considerable, that what remains after the real bridal outfit has been purchased is a positive source of profit to the father. There are also other districts where local custom requires the bridegroom’s family to give very little or even nothing at all for dowry, but exacts heavily from the bride’s family. There must be a large supply of clothing, and bedding; even when at her own home the young married woman must sew for her husband’s family, and the one which furnishes the bride is subject to a constant series of petty exactions.

The bridal chair is often itself a fit emblem of a Chinese wedding. Looked at from a distance, it appears to be of the most gorgeous description, but on a nearer view it is frequently perceived to be a most unattractive framework covered with a gaudy set of trappings sometimes much worn and evidently the worse for wear. In some cases there is a double framework, the outer of which can be lifted entirely off, being too clumsy to be got into a courtyard. The inner chair can be carried through the narrow doors of any Chinese yard, or, if required, into the house itself.

The bride is no sooner out of the chair than the process of dismantling the bridal chair begins, in the immediate sight of all the guests, and as a matter of course. The Chinese is not a victim of sentiment, and he fails to see anything incongruous in these proceedings. It not infrequently happens that the resplendent garment worn by the bride is hired for the occasion, a fact of which the guests present are not likely to be ignorant. We once saw a garment of this sort which the bride had just taken off, delivered to the headman in charge of the bridal chair and of the accompanying paraphernalia. Upon examining it to make sure that it was in as good condition as when it was hired, this man found, or professed to find, a grease-spot upon it, which not only attracted his attention but excited his wrath. He began to talk in loud and excited tones, waxing more and more furious until the guests were all called away from their other occupations to listen to the dispute. Yet the foreign spectator was probably the only person present to whom it occurred that this was an untimely and unseemly proceeding, out of harmony with the time and the circumstances.

The arrival of a first baby is, in the life of a Chinese wife, a very different event from the like occurrence in the life of a wife in Occidental lands. If the child is a boy, the joy of the whole household is of course great, but if on the contrary it is a girl, the depression of the spirits of the entire establishment is equally marked. In such a case, the young wife is often treated with coldness, and not infrequently with harshness, even if, as sometimes happens, she is not actually beaten for her lack of discretion in not producing a son. If she has had several daughters in succession, especially if she has borne no son or none which has lived, her life cannot be a pleasant one.

There is a story of a certain noble English lord, who had more daughters than any other member of the aristocracy. When on the Continent travelling, he walked out one day with six of his daughters. Some one who saw him, remarked to a companion, “Poor man.” The noble lord overheard the observation, and turning to the person who made it, replied, “Not so ‘poor’ as you think; I have six more at home!” It is questionable whether any Chinese could be found who would not sympathize with the comment of the bystander, or who would agree with the reply of the father. Indeed, we have serious doubts whether, among all the innumerable myriads of this race, there ever lived a Chinese who had twelve daughters living at once.

It is one of the postulates of Chinese propriety that however much a wife may continue to visit at the maternal home, (and on this point the usages in some regions are very liberal), her children must all be born at their father’s house. This is a rule of such unbending rigour that a breach of it is considered a deep disgrace, and in the effort to avoid it women will sometimes submit to extreme inconveniences, and run the most serious risks, not infrequently, it is said, meeting in consequence with painful and humiliating accidents. To the Occidental question as to the reason for this powerful prejudice against a confinement at a mother’s home, the Chinese are able to give no better reply than an affirmation that, if such an event should happen, the mother’s family may be expected to become very poor. This superstition is so strong that in some localities, if such an event has happened, it is customary for the family of the husband to harness a team to a plough, and, proceeding to the home of the girl’s parents, plough up their courtyard. The son-in-law must also cook a kettle full of millet or rice for his mother-in-law, by which means the dire extremity of poverty may be avoided. Perhaps, after all, the idea at the bottom of these singular performances is merely the thoroughly Chinese one that, if a married daughter and her children are to come upon her mother’s family for their support, poverty will be the certain result, a view which has in it some reason.

A description of the ceremonious superstitions common among the Chinese on occasion of the birth of a child, especially of a son, and most especially of a firstborn son, would fill a volume. These are far more rigorously observed in the southern part of the empire than at the north, and more in cities than in the country village, where many of these customs may be wholly unknown.

There is the highest Chinese classical authority for the proposition that if a mother is really anxious to do the best that she can for her infant, although she may not succeed perfectly, she will not come far short of success. There is equally trustworthy Occidental medical authority for the statement that, as applied to Chinese women, this proposition is a gross error. Undoubtedly superstition directly or indirectly destroys the lives of many Chinese children. But this cause, which is complex in its operations, is probably much less efficient for evil than the utter lack, on the part of the parents, of the instinct of conformity to the most obvious of Nature’s laws.

The newborn infant is laid upon the k’ang where it is sometimes warmly covered, and sometimes exposed to excessive changes of temperature. Many children continue to nurse at the breast for a series of years, and whenever they cry this is the sole method of effectually quieting them, even though they be thus fed an hundred times a day. When the baby is large enough to eat miscellaneous food, there is almost no restraint either upon the kind or the quantity. He is allowed to swallow unripe fruits and melons to almost any extent, and raw sweet-potatoes or turnips are gnawed on by very small infants in arms.

When children are able to run about they are likely to be constantly nibbling at something, often sucking their father’s tobacco pipe, sometimes producing serious weakening of the system and atrophy. In Shan hsi mere babies learn to smoke opium, which thus becomes at once a natural and an invincible appetite.

Taking into account the conditions of their early life, it is by no means improbable that more than half the whole number of Chinese infants die before they are two years old. This result is greatly promoted by many of those superstitions which sometimes have more than the force of law. Thus in some regions there is an absolute interdict on seeing either mother or child until forty days shall have elapsed from its birth. During this critical period myriads of young lives disappear almost without the knowledge of near neighbours. Similar bans are laid upon the period of some of the most common and most fatal of infantile diseases, such as measles, diphtheria, and smallpox, the mortality frequently attending which is enormous.

Multitudes of Chinese children die in fits, the causes of which are sufficiently obvious to foreigners who see the carelessness with which Chinese children are handled. We have known a Chinese mother, in a moment of dissatisfaction, to throw her young and naked infant out of doors into a snowbank. Another cut off one of her baby’s fingers with a pair of dull shears, to save it from fits, and was rewarded by seeing it die in convulsions. Such a practice is said to be not uncommon. “Who would have supposed that it would have done so?” her mother remarked to a foreigner. But even if the young mother were endowed with the best of judgment, it would still be impossible for her to secure proper care for her children, for the reason that she is herself only a “child" and in her management of her children, as in other affairs, is wholly subject to the dictation of her mother-in-law, as well as to the caprices of a platoon of aunts, grandmothers, etc., with whom nearly all Chinese courtyards swarm.

The severe labour entailed upon Chinese women in the drudgery of caring for large families, assisting in gathering the crops, and other outside toils, and the great drafts made upon their physical vitality by bearing and nursing so many children, amply suffice to account for the nearly universally observed fact that these women grow old rapidly. A Chinese bride, handsome at the age of eighteen, will be faded at thirty, and at fifty wrinkled and ugly.

It has been already remarked that the life of the Chinese village woman is an apt illustration of the inherent impossibility that woman’s work should ever be done. Before her own children have ceased to be a constant care by day and by night, grandchildren have not improbably made their appearance, giving the grandmother little peace or rest. The mere preparation of the food for so many in the single kettle which must serve for everything, is a heavy task incessantly repeated. All articles of apparel, including shoes, are literally manufactured or done by hand, and so likewise is the supply of bedding or wadded quilts which like the wadded garments must be ripped open from time to time, cleaned and renewed.

Women and girls take their share of watching the orchards and the melon patches, etc., by day, and sometimes by night as well. When the wheat harvest comes on, all the available women of the family are helping to gather it, and in the autumn harvest likewise every threshing-floor abounds with them, and their countless children. In cotton growing districts the women and girls are busy a large part of the time in the fields, and often earn the only pin-money which they ever see by picking cotton for others.

The preparation of this indispensable staple for use occupies the hands of millions of Chinese women, from its collection in the field a most laborious work since the plant grows so low to its appearance as garments, and its final disappearance as flat padding to be used in shoe-soles. The ginning, the “scutching” or separation of fibres, the spinning, the cording, the winding and starching, and especially the weaving are all hard and tiresome work, and that too without end in sight while life lasts. In some regions every family owns a loom (one of the clumsy machines exiled from the West a century ago) and it is not uncommon for the members of a family to take turns, the husband weaving until midnight, when the wife takes up the task till daylight, (often in cellars two-thirds underground, damp, unventilated, and unwholesome). Even so it is frequently difficult to keep the wolf away from the door. Within the past few years the competition of machine twisted cotton yarns is severely felt in the cotton regions of China, and many who just managed to exist in former days are now perpetually on the edge of starvation. This is the “seamy side” of “progress.”

The fact that Chinese girls are married so young, and that they have not been taught those lessons of self-control which it is so important for them to learn, suffices to demonstrate the absolute necessity for the existence of the Chinese mother-in-law as an element in the family. A Chinese married woman must address her mother-in-law as “mother,” but for precision is allowed to refer to her as “mother-in-law mother.” A Chinese woman calling on a foreign lady asked the latter (in the presence of her husband) about her family in the homeland. The lady mentioned that she had “a mother-in-law,” upon which the Chinese woman in an awed whisper pointing to the foreign gentleman, inquired: “Won’t he beat you for saying that?

A great deal is heard of the tyranny and cruelty of these mothers-in-law, and there is a firm basis of fact for all that is so often said upon that point. But it must at the same time be borne in mind that without her the Chinese family would go to utter ruin. The father-in-law is not only unfitted to take the control which belongs to his wife, even were he at home all the time which would seldom be the case, but propriety forbids him to do any such thing, even were he able. In families where a mother-in-law is lacking, there are not unlikely to be much greater evils than the worst mother-in-law. Abuse of the daughter-in-law is so common a circumstance, that unless it be especially flagrant, it attracts very little attention.

It would be wholly incorrect to represent this as the normal or the inevitable condition to which Chinese brides are reduced, but it is not too much to affirm that no bride has any adequate security against such abuse. It assumes all varieties of forms, from incessant scolding up to the most cruel treatment. If it is carried to an extreme pitch, the mother’s family will interfere, not legally, for that they cannot do, but by brute force. In a typical case of this sort, where the daughter-in-law had been repeatedly and shamefully abused by the family of her husband, which had been remonstrated with in vain by the family of the girl, the latter family mustered a large force, went to the house of the mother-in-law, destroyed the furniture, beat the other family severely, and dragged the old mother-in-law out into the street, where she was left screaming with what strength remained to her, and covered with blood, in which condition she was seen by foreigners. These proceedings are designed as a practical protest against tyranny and an intimation that sauce for a young goose may be in like manner sauce for an older one also. One would suppose that the only outcome of such a disturbance as this would be a long and bitter lawsuit, wasting the property of each of the parties, and perhaps reducing them to ruin. But with that eminent practicality which characterizes the Chinese, the girl was carried off to the home of her parents, “peace-talkers” intervened, and the girl was returned to her husband’s home upon the promise of better treatment. This would probably be secured, just in proportion to the ability of the girl’s family to enforce it.

In another case reported to the writer, similar in its nature to the one just mentioned, the girl was sent to her husband, after “peace-talkers” had adjusted the affair, and was locked up by the mother-in-law in a small room with only one meal a day. Within a year she had hanged herself.

It is not the ignorant and the uneducated only who thus take the law into their own hands on behalf of injured daughters. We have heard of a case in which the father of the girl who drowned herself was a literary graduate. He raised a band of men, went to the home of his son-in-law, and pulled down the gate-house to the premises, and some of the buildings. In the resulting lawsuit he was severely reproved by the District Magistrate, who told him that he had no right to assume to avenge his own wrongs, and that he was only saved from a beating in court by his literary degree.

A still more striking example was offered by an official of the third rank, whose daughter’s wrongs moved him to raise an armed band and make an attack upon the house of the son-in-law. This proved to be strong and not easily taken, upon which the angry Tao-t’ai contented himself with reviling the whole family at the top of his voice, exactly as a coolie would have done. Wrongs which can only be met with such acts as this, on the part of those who are the most conservative members of Chinese society, must be very real and very grievous. In the very numerous cases in which a daughter-in-law is driven to suicide by the treatment which she receives, the subsequent proceedings will depend mainly upon the number and standing of her relatives. The first thing is to notify the family of the deceased that she has died, for without their presence the funeral cannot take place, or if it should take place the body would have to be exhumed, to satisfy her friends that the death was a natural one, and not due to violence, which is always likely to be suspected. A Chinese in the employ of the writer, was summoned one day to see his married daughter in another village, who was said to be “not very well.” When the father arrived, he found her hanging by her girdle to a beam!

In cases of this sort, a lawsuit is exceptional. There are several powerful considerations which act as deterrents from such a step as sending in an accusation. It is almost always next to impossible to prove the case of the girl’s family, for the reason that the opposite party can always so represent the matter as to throw the blame on the girl. In one such instance, the husband brought into court a very small woman’s shoe, explaining that he had scolded his wife for wearing so small a one, which unfitted her for work. He alleged that she then reviled him, for which he struck her (of which there were marks), whereupon she drowned herself. To a defence like this, it is impossible for the girl’s family to make any reply whatever. The accusation is not brought against the husband, but against the father-in-law, for practically the law does not interfere between husband and wife. It is only necessary for the husband to admit the fact of having beaten his wife, alleging as a reason that she was “unfilial” to his parents, to screen himself completely. We have heard of a suit where in reply to a claim of this sort, the brother of the girl testified that she had been beaten previous to the alleged “unfilial” conduct. This seemed to make the magistrate angry, and he ordered the brother to receive several hundred blows for his testimony, and decided that the husband’s family should only be required to provide a cheap willow-wood coffin for the deceased.

Another even more efficient cause deterring from such lawsuits, is the necessity of holding an inquest over the girl’s body. This is conducted with the utmost publicity, upon the Oriental plan of letting the public see how the matter really stands. A threshing floor is turned into an official arena, a set of mat-sheds are put up, and the whole village soon swarms with yamen-runners. The corpse of the deceased is laid uncovered on a mat exposed to the sight of every one, before and during the inquest. In order to avoid the shame of such exposure, and the great expense, the most bitter enemies are often willing enough to put the matter in the hands of “peace-talkers.” These represent the village of each of the principals, and they meet to agree upon the terms of settlement. These terms will depend altogether upon the wealth or otherwise of the family of the mother-in-law. If this family is a rich one, the opposite party always insist upon bleeding it to the utmost practicable extent. Every detail of the funeral is arranged to be as expensive to the family as possible. There must be a cypress-wood coffin, of a specified size and thickness, a certain variety of funeral clothes, often far in excess of what the coffin could by any possibility contain, and some of them made perhaps of silk or satin. A definite amount is required to be spent in hiring Buddhist or Taoist priests, or both, to read masses at the funeral. It is considered disgraceful to compound with the family of the mother-in-law, by receiving a money payment, instead of exacting all this funeral show, but doubtless such compositions are sometimes made. As a business arrangement merely, it is evidently more to the interest of all parties to pay the girl’s relatives say two hundred strings of cash, rather than to expend a thousand strings on a funeral which can do no one any good. But Chinese sensitiveness to public sentiment is so extreme, that such settlements for a mere transfer of cash must be comparatively rare.

The wedding outfit of a bride is often very extensive, but in case of her suicide none of it goes back to her family. We have heard from eyewitnesses of many cases in which huge piles of clothing which had been required for the funeral of such a suicide from the family of the mother-in-law, have been burnt in a vast heap at the grave. We know of one instance in which all the wedding outfit, which had been a large one, wardrobes, tables, mirrors, ornaments, etc., was taken out upon the street and destroyed in the presence of the girl’s family. The motive to this is of course revenge, but the ultimate effect of such proceedings is to act as an imperfect check upon the behaviour of the mother-in-law and her family toward the daughter-in-law, for whom while she lives the laws of the land have no protection.

When the funeral actually takes place, under conditions such as we have described, there is great danger that despite the exertions of the “peace-talkers” from both sides, the dispute may break out anew. At sight of the girl’s livid face, the result of death by strangulation, it will not be strange if, excited by the spectacle, her family cry out “Let her be avenged! Let her be avenged!” To keep the women of the girl’s family quiet at such a time, is beyond the power of any collection of “peace-talkers,” however numerous and respectable. If the respective parties are restrained from mutual reviling and from a fight, the funeral is regarded as a successful one. The girl’s family complain of everything, the coffin, the clothing, the ornaments for the corpse, and all the appointments generally. But they are soothed by the comforting reminder that the dead are dead, and cannot be brought to life, and also that the resources of the family of the mother-in-law have been utterly exhausted, the last acre of land mortgaged to raise money for the funeral, and that they are loaded besides with a millstone of debt.

It is an ancient observation that one-half the world does not know how the other half lives. It is quite possible to dwell among the Chinese for a long time without becoming practically acquainted with their modes of settling those difficulties to which their form of civilization makes them especially liable.

The best way to study phenomena of this sort is through concrete cases. A single instance, well considered in all its bearings, may be a window which will let in more light than a volume of abstract statements. Whoever is disposed to enter into such studies will find in China the material ready to his hand, and it will not be strange if it is forced upon his attention whether he desires to contemplate it or not, as happened in the following highly illustrative case. Many years ago a Chinese teacher in the writer’s employ had leave of absence for a definite period, but when that period had expired he failed to make his appearance. This is so common, or rather so almost universal an occurrence in China, that it might have passed with only a temporary notice, but for the explanation which the teacher afterward gave of his inability to return, an explanation which appeared to be so peculiar that he was requested to reduce it to the form of a written statement, of which the following is a synopsis.

An elder sister of the teacher was married to a very poor man in a village called the “Tower of the Li Family,” an insignificant hamlet consisting of only four families. In a year of great famine (1878), both the sister and her husband died, leaving three sons, all married. Of these the second died, and his widow remarried. The wife of the elder nephew of the teacher also died, and this nephew married for his second wife a widow, who had a daughter of her own, twelve years of age. This widow enjoyed the not very assuring reputation of having beaten her former mother-in-law, and also of having caused the death of her first husband. The wife of the third nephew was a quarrelsome woman, and the two sisters-in-law were always at sword’s points, especially as all four of the adults and their four children shared the house and land together.

In the month of August of that year the third nephew started for a distant market, with a boat-load of watermelons. On leaving he ordered his wife to fetch his winter garments, which she refused to do, upon which they had a fight, and he left. The next day was cold and rainy. The elder nephew was sitting in a neighbour’s house, and heard his wife engaged in a violent quarrel with her sister-in-law, but he did not even rise to look into the merits of the case, and no other neighbour intervened to exhort to peace. The younger sister-in-law left the house in a fury, and from that time she disappeared. About noon her continued absence became alarming to the elder brother, who searched for her till dark, and then sent word to her mother’s family at a village called “The Little Camp” two li distant. This family, upon hearing of the disappearance of their daughter, raised a company of ten or a dozen persons, went over to the “Tower of the Li Family,” entered the yard, and smashed all the water-jars and other pottery-ware which they could. “Peace-talkers” emerged, and succeeded in preventing the attacking party from entering the house, or the damage would have been still greater.

After they had gone, the “Lord-of-bitterness” (i. e., the elder brother) begged his friends to interfere and “talk peace,” for as he was a resident of a small village, he could not for a moment stand before the men of “The Little Camp,” which is a large village. These latter belonged to one of the numerous small sects which are styled “black-doors,” or secret societies. In these societies there is often a class of persons called “Seers” or “Bright-eyes” (ming-yen), who profess to be able to tell what progress the pupils have made in their learning of the doctrine. Sometimes, as in this instance, they also undertake the functions of fortune-tellers. To the Bright-eye of their sect, the Little Campers applied for information as to what had become of the missing woman. In response they learnt that she had been beaten to death and buried in the yard of the “Lord-of-bitterness.” Upon hearing this, the family of the murdered woman went to every door in their village, making a kotow at each door, a common and significant mode of imploring their help. Thus a large force was raised, which went to the “Tower of the Li Family,” armed with spades to dig up the body. Warned of their coming, all the male residents of this latter village fled, the family of the “Lord-of-bitterness” taking refuge at the village in the house of the local constable who had charge of several villages. The teacher in question, being a near relative of the “Lord-of-bitterness,” and a man of intelligence and pleasant manners, was asked to look after the house of his nephew, which he did. Owing to his presence and his politeness, no further damage was then done to the property, but the whole yard was dug over to find the body. On the failure of this quest, the Bright-eye modified the former announcement by the revelation that the body was outside the yard, but not more than thirty paces distant. The search was kept up with spades and picks by day and by night for a week. After repeated attempts had been made by the Lord-of bitterness to get the matter adjusted, and after the other party had refused to listen to any terms, the latter lodged an accusation in the District Magistrate’s yamen. The Magistrate heard the case twice, but each time the family of the missing woman behaved in such an unreasonable and violent manner that the official dismissed their case, merely ordering the local constable to enlist more peace-talkers, and make the parties come to some agreement.

It happened that about that time another case somewhat resembling this had occurred in that neighbourhood, in which a woman was suspected of having drowned herself. On this account a sharp watch was kept at the ferry of the District city, some miles lower down the river, for any floating body.

About the time of the Magistrate’s decision, a woman’s body appeared abreast of the ferry and was identified as that of the missing woman from the Li Family Tower. The official held an inquest, in which all parties made diligent search for wounds, but none being found the Magistrate compelled the family of the woman to affix their thumb marks to a paper recognizing this fact. He ordered the Lord-of-bitterness to buy a good coffin, clothes, and prepare other appointments for a showy funeral, including chanting by Buddhist priests, and to have the body taken to his house. He also instructed the constable once more to secure peace-talkers, to arrange the details and to hold the funeral.

But the Little Campers proved to be the most obstinate of mortals, and would not only listen to no reason, but drove the peace-talkers from their village with reviling language, never so exasperating to a Chinese as when employed against those who are sacrificing their interests for those of the public. At this juncture the husband of the drowned woman returned from the watermelon market, went himself to the home of his late wife, and expostulated with her family and also urged peace through still other third parties. But the Little Campers insisted upon funeral paraphernalia which would have cost 10,000 strings of cash.

One more effort at compromise was made, by the visit of an uncle of the teacher who was guarding the house of the Lord-of-bitterness, to the Little Campers. The latter now altered their demands to a payment of 800 strings of cash, which by much chaffering was eventually reduced to 400. The Lord-of-bitterness offered 250 strings, but this was rejected with disdain.

Upon the failure of these numerous negotiations, the local constable presented another complaint to the Magistrate, reciting the facts in the repeated refusal, on the part of the family of the woman, to come to any terms. The Magistrate, recognizing the case as one in which the relatives were resolved to make the utmost possible capital out of a dead body, ordered eight men from his own yamen to go on that very day and attend the funeral, in order to insure that there should be no breach of peace. These yamen-runners, after the customary Chinese manner, hoped to be bribed to do as they were ordered and did not go to the place at all. The Lord-of-bitterness and all his neighbours continued in obscurity, but in the interval the men from the Little Camp again gathered their hosts, and made four more visits to the premises at the Li Family Tower, breaking everything which they could lay their hands upon. The next day the yamen-runners arrived, and the Lord-of-bitterness, now thoroughly exasperated, succeeded in collecting a force of several hundred men from other villages, intending at all hazards to hold the funeral and also to have a general fight, if need arose. But the men of the Little Camp failed to put in an appearance at this time, and the funeral accordingly at last took place. The friends of the woman, however, obstinately refused to consider the matter as settled, at which point the curtain falls, with a plentiful promise of future lawsuits, fights, and ruin.

The reader who is sufficiently interested in the inner-working of the life of the Chinese to follow the tangled thread of a tale like this, is rewarded by the perception of several important facts. It is an axiom in China that the family of the married daughter holds its head down, while the family of the man whom she has married holds its head up. But in case of the violent death of the married woman all this is reversed, and by a natural process of reaction the family of the married woman becomes a fierce and formidable antagonist.

Principles such as these have but to be put in issue between two large villages, or families, and we have the well-known clan fights of southern China, in all their perennial bitterness and intensity. One of the weakest parts of the Chinese social fabric is the insecurity of the life and happiness of woman, but no structure is stronger than its weakest part, and Chinese society is no exception to this law. Every year thousands upon thousands of Chinese wives commit suicide, tens of thousands of other persons are thereby involved in serious trouble, hundreds of thousands of yet others are dragged in as co-partners in the difficulty, and millions of dollars are expended in extravagant funerals and ruinous lawsuits. And all this is the outcome of the Confucian theory that a wife has no rights which a husband is bound to respect. The law affords her no protection while she lives, and such justice as she is able with difficulty to exact is strictly a post mortem concession.

The reality of the evils of the Chinese system of marriages is evidenced by the extreme expedients to which unmarried girls sometimes resort, to avoid matrimony. Chinese newspapers not infrequently contain references to organized societies of young maidens, who solemnly vow never to wed. The following paragraphs are translated from a Chinese newspaper called the Shih Pao:


There is a prevailing custom in a district called Shun-te in the Canton province, among female society to form different kinds of sisterhoods such as “All pure” sisterhoods, “Never-to-be-married” sisterhoods, etc. Each sisterhood consists of about ten young maidens who swear vows to heaven never to get married, as they regard marriages as something horrid, believing that their married lives would be miserable and unholy; and their parents fail to prevail upon them to yield.

A sad case has just happened: a band of young maidens ended their existence in this world by drowning themselves in the Dragon River because one of them was forced by her parents to be married. She was engaged in her childhood before she joined this sisterhood. When her parents had made all the necessary arrangements for her marriage she reported the affair to the other members of her sisterhood who at once agreed to die for her cause, if she remained constant to her sworn vows to be single and virtuous. Should she violate the laws of the sisterhood and yield to her parents, her life was to be made most unpleasant by the other members and she was to be taunted as a worthless being. She consulted with them as to the best mode of escaping this marriage, and they all agreed to die with her, if she could plan to run away from her parents on the night of the marriage.

As there were many friends to watch her movements, it was almost impossible for her to escape, so she attempted her life by swallowing a gold ring, but any serious consequence that might have resulted was prevented by the administration of a powerful emetic. She was finally taken by force and made over to the male side, to her great grief. According to the usual custom she was allowed to return to her parents. During all this time she was planning a way to escape to her sisters. By bribing the female servants she was taken one night to her sisters under the cover of darkness. The sisters at once joined with her in terminating their lives by jumping into the Dragon River with its swift currents, which rapidly carried them off.

This kind of tragedy is not uncommon in this part of the land. The officials have from time to time tried to check the formation of such sisterhoods, but all their efforts were in vain. Girls must have reasons of their own for establishing such societies. Married life must have been proved by many in that region to have been not altogether too sweet. However, such wholesale suicide must be prevented by law if the parents have no control over their daughters.

It is well known that Chinese law recognizes seven grounds for the divorce of a wife, as follows: childlessness, wanton conduct, neglect of husband’s parents, loquacity (to yen), thievishness, jealousy, malignant disease. The requisites for a Chinese wife are by no means sure to be exacting. A man in the writer’s employ, who was thinking of giving up his single life, on being questioned as to what sort of a wife he preferred, compendiously replied, “It is enough if she is neither bald nor idiotic.” In a country where the avowed end of marriage is to raise up a posterity to burn incense at the ancestral graves, it is not strange that “childlessness” should rank first among the grounds for divorce. It would be an error, however, to infer that simply because they are designated in the Imperial code of laws, either this or any other of the above mentioned, are the ordinary occasions of divorce.

It is always difficult to arrive at just conclusions in regard to facts of a high degree of complexity, especially in regard to the Chinese. But so far as we can perceive, the truth appears to be that divorce in China is by no means so common as might be expected by reasoning from the law just quoted. Probably the most common cause is adultery, for the reason that this is the crime most fatal to the existence of the family.

But it must be distinctly understood that in every case of divorce, there is a factor to be taken into account which the law does not even consider. This is the family of the woman, and, as we have seen, it is a factor of great importance, and by no means to be disregarded. It is very certain that the family of the woman will resist any divorce which they consider to be unjust or disgraceful, not merely on account of the loss of “face,” but for another reason even more powerful.

In China a woman cannot return to her parent’s home after an unhappy marriage, as is often done in Western lands, because there is no provision for her support. Enough land is set apart for the maintenance of the parents, and after that has been provided for, the remainder is divided among the brothers. No lot or portion falls to any sister. It is this which makes it imperative that every woman should be married, that she may have some visible means of support. After her parents are dead, her brothers, or more certainly her brothers’ wives, would drive her from the premises, as an alien who had no business to depend upon their family when she “belongs” to another. Under this state of things, it is not very likely that a husband would be allowed to divorce his wife except for a valid cause, unless there should be some opportunity for her to “take a step,” that is, to remarry elsewhere.

Next to adultery, the most common cause of Chinese divorce is thought to be what Western laws euphemistically term incompatibility, by which is meant, in this case, such constant domestic brawls as to make life, even to a Chinese, not worth living. It is needless to remark that when things have reached this pitch, they must be very bad indeed. Every one of the above cited causes for divorce evidently affords room for the loosest construction of the facts, and if the law were left to its own execution, with no restraint from the wife’s family, the grossest injustice might be constantly committed. As it is, whatever settlement is arrived at in any particular case, must be the result of a compromise, in which the friends of the weaker party take care to see that their rights are considered.

We have repeatedly referred to the imperative necessity that every Chinese youth should be married. To a foreigner there is a mixture of the ludicrous and the pathetic in the attitude of the average parent, in regard to a marriage of a son who has nearly reached the age of twenty and is still single. It is a Chinese aphorism of ancient times that when sons and daughters are once married, “the great business of life has been despatched.” Chinese parents look upon the marriage of their sons just as Western parents look upon the matter of taking young boys out of their early dresses and putting them into trousers. The serious part of life cannot be begun until this is done, and to delay it is ridiculous and irrational.

There is a sentiment of false modesty which forbids the persons most interested in a marriage, even to refer to it. It is often impossible for any one but the mother to hint to a girl that it is time she were betrothed, an announcement which is naturally the frequent occasion for stormy scenes.

A Chinese teacher well known to the writer, having graduated from a missionary college at the age of twenty-three, remembered that he was not betrothed. When matters had been arranged without his appearing to be aware of the fact (although he was consulted at each step) it became necessary to visit his home to arrange with his parents the time of the marriage. But the sensitive young man refused to go on this errand himself, and posted off a “yard uncle,” urging as a more than sufficient reason: “How could I speak to my father and mother about such a thing as that?”

Since this paragraph was written a Chinese friend called on the writer with an air of pleased embarrassment about “a little matter” which seemed to interest him. He is more than forty years of age, and had never been married. He has two brothers, all three sharing in common a property amounting to less than two English acres. This brother had been at home for some months, during which there was no mention of matrimony, nor any thought of it. Having left home for a few weeks, before the time was nearly expired the elder brother posted off a special messenger to a distance of more than 300 li to mention to him the fact that he had suddenly arranged a betrothal for this forty years old bachelor, to a girl of seventeen, whose friends were now pressing for an immediate execution of the contract. The interview closed with the expression of an earnest wish on the part of the Chinese that his foreign friend would see his way clear to “a loan” of twenty strings of cash for the bride’s outfit, the bridegroom having no independent property whatever, and no income. The comment of ninety-nine out of an hundred Chinese on this match, or on any other in similar circumstances would be compendiously condensed in the single word “hao,” meaning when fully explicated, “It is well; this is what certainly ought to be done now.” Questions of expense appear to them as irrelevant as they would to us if the matter was the burial of a parent.

Chinese parents are never willing to run the risk of having the marriage of any of their children, especially the sons, postponed until after the death of their parents. They often feel uncertain whether the children already married will be willing to make the proper provision for the event, or indeed that they will let it take place at all. Affairs of this sort involve the partition of the land, with a portion to each married son, and it is not in human nature to wish to multiply the sharers in a property which is too often at the best wholly inadequate. For this cause, every prudent parent wishes to see this “main business of life,” put through while he is able to superintend the details.

The inexorable necessity for the marriage of sons is not suspended by the fact that the child is wholly unsuited for a real marriage, or indeed incapable of it. Cases constantly occur, in which a boy who is a hopeless and helpless cripple is married to a girl, whose family only assent to the arrangement, because of the advantageous terms which are offered. Children who are subject to epileptic or other forms of fits, those who are more or less insane, and even those who are wholly idiotic, all may have, and do have, wives, provided only that the families of the boys were in good circumstances. The inevitable result of this violation of the laws of nature, is an infinity of suffering for the girls whose lives are thus wrecked, and the evolution of a wealth of scandal.

There is another feature of Chinese married life, to which little attention seems to have been paid by foreigners, but which is well worth investigation. It is the kidnapping of legally married wives. The method by which this may be accomplished, and the difficulty of tracking those who do it, may be illustrated by the following case, with the principal parties in which, the father and father-in-law of the bride, the writer is acquainted, having been present at the wedding in December, 1881.

The bride herself, was, as so often, a mere child. On her frequent visits to her native village, which local custom allows, the bride did not spend much of her time at her own home, where she was probably not made very welcome by her step-mother, but went instead to her grandmother’s, who was old, half blind, and ill supplied with bedding. In a neighbouring yard lived a cousin of the girl, who was a “salt inspector,” that is, one whose duty is to seize dealers in smuggled salt. His wife was the daughter of a widow, who was reported to be herself a dealer in smuggled salt, of course with the connivance of her son-in-law. This couple were said to have been married without the intervention of go-betweens, and hence the most flagitious conduct was to be expected from them. The girl got into the habit, whenever she visited her village, of going to the house of this cousin, and not to that of her father. The cousin was absent much of the time, on his business in connection with the suppression (or the sale) of smuggled salt. Upon one occasion, after a ten days’ visit to her native village she returned to the home of her husband (also a mere child), where she stayed five days, and then went again to her own village. A younger sister-in-law, sixteen years of age, went with her two-thirds of the way, at which point the bride sent her escort back and proceeded alone. Some days after this the own sister of the bride met the father-in-law at a fair, and inquired why the bride did not return to her own village as agreed. Her absence from both homes was thus for the first time discovered. The steps taken to follow her are an excellent illustration of certain phases of Chinese life. It is almost impossible in China for any one to do anything so secretly that some other persons do not know of it, and in an affair so serious as the disappearance outright of a young bride, the chances of successful concealment would seem to be very slight.

The father-in-law of the girl went to the village where she had lived, and learned that upon the occasion of her home visits the child had been allowed to go where she pleased, and that once after coming in from her cousin’s, she had been heard to remark that she herself was worth as much as five ounces of silver. It was also reported that the wife of the cousin had been observed waiting for the missing girl, on the night she was last seen at the time when she dismissed the sister-in-law who had accompanied her. This was all the clue that could be got.

The father-in-law now presented a petition to the District Magistrate, reciting the facts and accusing the girl’s father, and others. This was followed by counter accusations from the father, the cousin, and his mother-in-law. The official reply to the complaint was an order to the local constable to find the girl. The constable was a wholly incompetent person, and could not have found her if he had tried. A second petition to the Magistrate was followed by the same reply. This signified that there was no hope from that official, who took no interest in the matter.

After these repeated failures of justice, the poor father-in-law resolved to make one more trial, a desperate expedient, but the only one which was left. He seized the occasion of the passing of the District official through that village, to kneel in Front of the sedan-chair and proclaim his grievance. The Magistrate merely repeated what had been said in court, that he knew nothing about the matter; that it was not his business to find the cattle of those who might lose them, neither was it his function to recover daughters-in-law. He also expressed the opinion that the father-in-law was lacking in proof of his case, and was falsely accusing parties who were innocent, and then ordered his chair to proceed.

The only remaining hope of tracing the missing person was to follow up chance dues. In such a case, no one will give any information whatever, no matter what he may know, for the reason that the possible effect may be to drag him as witness into a fearful lawsuit, which is only one step removed from being the principal victim oneself. This is so universal a deterrent in a quest of this sort as almost to bar all progress. Those who were interested in this particular case were led to recall another, which occurred many years before in a village immediately contiguous, where the wife of a man who was working for some one else was taken off (of course with her consent) while he was absent. In this instance, although the husband was able to ascertain to what village she had been taken, yet as it was a large one he could never get any further trace of her, and she died there. The writer is personally acquainted with two families in which such occurrences have taken place, and with a third, the wife in which, when living with her first husband who divorced her, was to have been kidnapped, if the plan could have been carried out.

It is of course impossible to form any correct idea as to the extent to which the kidnapping of married women is carried in China, but there are a few little windows through which glimpses may be had of regions beyond our ordinary vision. Such glimpses may be frequently gained from accounts published in Chinese native newspapers, in which such accounts often form a staple topic. In the absence of any acquaintance with the wider interests of the empire, these piquant personalities seem to many Chinese very entertaining, as items of a similar sort do to certain readers in Western lands. Such gossip is collected at the yamens, where many of the cases reported have already reached the stage of a prosecution, and others are quietly adjusted by “peace-talkers.” Similar information may also be obtained from occasional memorials printed in the Peking Gazette. It not seldom happens that these kidnapping cases lead to murder, and perhaps to wholesale fighting, ending in many deaths, which render it necessary for a Governor to report the facts and proceedings to Peking. From data of this sort one would infer that, as the proverb says, “The crow is everywhere equally black.”

We have spoken of the sale of girls by their parents, and have now to refer to the more or less common cases of the sale of wives by their husbands. This is generally due to the press of poverty, and the writer is acquainted with a Chinese who, being deeply in debt, was thrown into prison from which he found deliverance hopeless. He accordingly sent word to his relatives to have his wife sold, which was done, and with the proceeds the man was able to buy his escape. The frequency of such sales may be said to bear a direct ratio to the price of grain.

There is another method of selling wives, with which the Chinese are acquainted, which can be adopted whenever the pressure of life at home becomes too hard to be borne. The husband and wife then start off on a begging expedition toward a region in which the crops have been good. In a bad year, there are thousands of such persons roaming about the country, picking up a scanty subsistence wherever they can. The man who wishes to sell his wife represents her as his sister, and declares that they are forced by hunger to part company. He reluctantly makes up his mind to sell her to some one who is in need of a wife, and who can get one more cheaply by this process than by any other. To this arrangement the woman tearfully assents, the money is paid to her “brother,” and he departs, to be seen no more. After a few days or a few weeks in her new home, the newly married “sister” contrives to steal out in the evening with all of her own clothes and as many more as she can collect, and rejoins her “brother,” setting out with him for “fresh woods and pastures new.” With that keen instinct for analogy which characterizes the Chinese, they have invented for this proceeding the name of “falconing with a woman,” likening it to the sport of a man who places his hawk on his wrist, and releases it when he sees game in sight, only that the bird may speedily return. It is a popular proverb, that “playing the falcon with a woman” implies a plot in which two persons are concerned.

An inquirer is told that in some districts this practice of “falconing” is exceedingly common, for the supply of gullible persons who hope to buy a wife at a cheaper rate than usual never fails.

The Chinese ridicule any one who seems to be infatuated with a bargain in which a woman is concerned, but it is not improbable that under similar circumstances they themselves would do the same. An old fellow living in the same village as the writer bought a woman under what he considered exceptionally profitable conditions, and lest she should escape, he anchored her in the yard fastened to a peg like a donkey. His neighbours laughed at him, and he at them, until the woman suddenly disappeared, an event which reduced him to a more sober view of the “five relations.”

Chinese public sentiment is altogether on the right side of this question, but Chinese practice is not under the guidance of sentiment of any kind. It is proverbial that a judicious man will never marry a woman who has a living husband, for the sufficient reason that he never can foresee the consequences, which are often serious. But the instinct of trying to cheat Fate is in all Chinese most vigorous. “Cheaper than an animal,” was the self-complacent comment of a Chinese friend of the writer’s in regard to his own second marriage where he had paid no money for his wife, but only an allowance for outfit. But when the elder sister-in-law had been heard from, this same individual was dissolved in tears for many moons, since his future peace seemed to have been wrecked.

It is a natural sequence to the Chinese doctrine of the necessity of having male children that, in case this becomes unlikely, a secondary wife, or concubine, should be taken, with that end in view. As a matter of fact this practice is confined to a comparatively small number of families, mainly those in fairly good circumstances, for no others could afford the expense. The evils of this expedient are well recognized, and it is fortunate for Chinese society that resort is not had to it on a much greater scale than appears to be the case. The practical turn of the Chinese mind has suggested to them a much simpler method of arriving at the intended results, by a much less objectionable method. This is the well-known adoption of children from collateral branches of the family, already mentioned, so as to keep the line of succession intact, and prevent the extinction of any particular branch.

It not infrequently happens that the son in a family dies before he is married, and that it is desirable to adopt, not a son, but a grandson. There is however, to the Chinese, a kind of paradox in adopting a grandson, when the son has not been married. To remedy this defect after the boy had died unmarried would, to the practical Occidental, appear impossible, but it is not so to the sentimental Chinese. To meet this exigency they have invented the practice of marrying the dead, which is certainly among the most singular of the many singular performances to be met with in China.

In order to keep the line of succession unbroken, it is thought desirable that each generation should have its proper representatives, whether they really were or were not links in the chain. It is only in families where there is some considerable property that this question is likely to arise. Where it does arise, and where a lad has died for whom it is thought desirable to take a post-mortem wife, the family cast about to hear of some young girl who has also died recently. A proposition is then made, by the usual intermediaries, for the union of these two corpses in the bonds of matrimony! It is probably only poor families to which such a proposition in regard to their daughter would be made; to no others would it be any object. If it is accepted, there is a combination of a wedding and a funeral, in the process of which the deceased “bride” will be taken by a large number of bearers to the cemetery of the other family, and laid beside her “husband”! The newly adopted grandson worships the corpse of his “mother,” and the other ceremonies proceed in the usual way.

The writer was personally acquainted with a Chinese girl who after her death was thus “married” to a dead boy in another village. Upon being questioned in regard to the matter, her father admitted that it was not an entirely rational procedure, but remarked that the girl’s mother was in favour of accepting the offer. The real motive in this case was undoubtedly a desire to have a showy funeral at the expense of another family, for a child who was totally blind, and whose own parents were too poor at her death to do more than wrap her body in a mat.

The practice of marrying one dead person to another is very far from uncommon to China. Its ultimate root is found in the famous dictum of Mencius, that of the three lines of unfilial conduct the chief is to leave no posterity. This utterance is one upon which the whole domestic life of the Chinese seems to have rested for ages. It is for this reason that those Chinese who have not yet married are accounted as of no importance. When they die, they are, if children, “thrown out” either literally or figuratively, and are not allowed a place in the family graveyards. These belong exclusively to those who are mated, and occasional bachelors must expect no welcome there. The same principle seems to be applicable to those who have died, and whose wives have remarried. It is for such cases that the strange plan of marrying a living woman to a dead husband has been invented. The motive on the part of the woman could be only that of saving herself from starvation, a fate which often hangs imminent over poor Chinese widows who do not remarry. The motive on the part of the family of the deceased husband is to make the ancestral graves complete. If the family of the deceased is not moderately well off, they would not go to the expense and trouble of bringing in a wife for a dead husband. But if she were well off, the widow would probably not have remarried. It thus appears the marriage of a living woman to a dead man is likely to be confined to cases where the family being poor, the widow remarried, but where the family circumstances having subsequently materially improved, it became an object to arrange as already explained to fill the threatened graveyard gap.

It is perhaps for this reason that cases of such marriage appear to be relatively rare, so rare indeed, that many even intelligent and educated Chinese have never heard of them at all, and perhaps stoutly deny their existence. Sufficient inquiry, however, may not improbably develop here and there specific cases of conformity to this custom, so repellent to our thought, but to the Chinese natural and rational.

As already mentioned, in cases where it has been decided to adopt a son, and where there are no suitable candidates within the family circle, a lad may be taken from a different family, sometimes related, sometimes connected, sometimes neither related nor connected, and sometimes he may even be a total stranger merely “picked up.” The result of this latter practice especially is often very disappointing and painful for the couple who have gone to so much trouble to find an heir, and who too often discover that they have spent their strength in vain, and that filial piety is not a commodity to be had for the asking.

But whatever its attendant evils, which are undoubtedly many and great, the Chinese plan of adoption is always incomparably preferable to that of bringing into the yard a “little wife.” It is by no means singular that the Chinese have given to the relations between the real wife and the supplementary one, the significant name of “sipping vinegar.”

We happen to have been personally acquainted with several families in which a concubine had been introduced. In two of them, the secondary wives had been bought because they were to be had at a cheap rate in a year of famine. One of these poor creatures came one day running into the yard of a Chinese family with whom the writer was living, screaming and dishevelled, as the result of “vinegar sipping.” The man who had taken her openly reviled his mother in the most shameless way, upon her remonstrance at the act.

In a second instance, a man past middle-life thought by this means to make sure of a son, but was greatly disappointed in the result. He was in the habit of inviting elderly Chinese women of his acquaintance to go to his house, and “exhort” his wives to stop “sipping vinegar,” a labour which was attended with very negative results. When he died, the last wife was driven out to return to her relatives, although for a country villager her husband was reputed to be a fairly rich man. In cases where the concubine has a son, in the event of her husband’s death, if affairs are properly managed, she has a portion of land set apart for her like any other wife.

In a third case a neighbour of the writer, a man in middle-life, had a wife about forty years of age, two others having died, one of them leaving a daughter now twenty years of age. The father was absent from home much of the time, engaged in business in Peking. With Chinese thus situated, it often appears to be a particularly happy solution of a difficulty to have two wives, the legal wife at home, and the “small one” at the place where the husband spends most of his time. When the man returned to his home, he brought this secondary wife with him, an act very well adapted to promote “vinegar sipping.” This additional wife was a mere child much younger than the daughter of her husband.

At the next New Year it was reported that the man would not allow his proper wife to go to the ancestral graves, but insisted upon taking his young concubine to do the sacrificing. Other injurious reports, true or false, were circulated in regard to his behaviour toward his proper wife, and his intentions in the future to abandon or divorce her, and these soon reached the village of which she was a native. The result was a deputation of a considerable number of elderly men from that village to the one in which the husband lived. This deputation instituted proceedings by summoning the head of the husband’s clan to meet them. But a large number of young men from that same village, having heard of the affair, could not wait for the elders to adjust the matter by slow Chinese diplomacy, but came in a body to the house of the husband, and without any ceremony made an attack upon it, breaking down the barred door and throwing themselves with violence upon the defenceless husband.

The attacking party had armed themselves with awls, but not, according to their own account, with knives. It was late at night when the onslaught was made, and it was impossible to distinguish friend from foe. The husband was at once over-powered, and was subsequently found to have seventeen awl-stabs on his chest, and two savage knife-cuts on his back, penetrating to the lungs. It was alleged by the attacking party that the latter wounds must have been made by some of the man’s immediate neighbours who were personal enemies, and who, hearing the outcry, rushed in only to find that their enemy was defenceless and open to their attack (which could not be proved against them), a circumstance of which they took care to avail themselves. The attacking party having thus placed themselves in the wrong, were obliged, upon being prosecuted at law, to get an influential company of intermediaries to help them out of the difficulty. This was at last accomplished according to the usual Chinese method a great deal of head knocking and a great many feasts for the injured party.

Notwithstanding such instructive object-lessons as these, with which all parts of China must to a greater or less extent abound, many of those who think that they can afford to do so continue to repeat the experiment, although the adage says: “If your wife is against it, do not take a concubine.” If this advice were to be adopted, it is not improbable that the practice of concubinage in China would become practically extinct.

A traveller through China often notices in the villages along his route that in the early morning most of the men seem to be assembled by the roadside, each one squatting in front of his own door, all busily engaged in shovelling in their food with chopsticks (appropriately called “nimble-sons"), chatting meantime during the brief intervals with the neighbour nearest. That the entire family should sit down to a table, eating together and waiting for one another, after the manner of the inhabitants of Western lands, is an idea so foreign to the ordinary Chinese mind as to be almost incomprehensible.

This Chinese (and Oriental) habit is at once typical and suggestive. It marks a wholly different conception of the family, and of the position of woman therein, from that to which we are accustomed. It indicates the view that while man is yang, the male, ruling, and chief element in the universe, woman is yin, “dull, female, inferior.” The conception of woman as man’s companion is in China almost totally lacking, for woman is not the companion of man, and with society on its present terms she never can be. A new bride introduced into a family has visible relations with no one less than with her “husband.” He would be ashamed to be seen talking with her, and in general they seem in that line to have very little to be ashamed of. In those unique instances in which the young couple have the good sense to get acquainted with each other, and present the appearance of actually exchanging ideas, this circumstance is the joke of the whole family circle, and an insoluble enigma to all its members. We have heard of cases in which members of a family where there was a newly married couple, kept a string in which was tied a knot, every time that they were heard to speak to one another. This cord would be subsequently exhibited to them in ridicule of their intimacy!

A Chinese bride has no rational prospect of happiness in her new home, though she may be well dressed, well fed, and perhaps not abused. She must expect chronic repression through the long years during which she is for a time in fact, and in theory always, a “child.” Such rigorous discipline may be necessary to fit her for the duties of her position, when she shall have become herself a mother-in-law, and at the head of a company of daughters-in-law, but it is a hard necessity. That there are sometimes genuine attachments between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law it would be a mistake to deny, for in such rare cases human nature shows its power of rising superior to the conventional trammels in which it finds itself by iron customs bound.

To defend herself against the fearful odds which are often pitted against her, a Chinese wife has but two resources. One of them is her mother’s family, which, as we have seen, has no real power, and is too often to be compared to the stern light of a ship, of no service for protection in advance, and only throwing a lurid glare on the course which has been passed over, but which cannot be retraced.

The other means of defence which a Chinese wife has at her command is herself. If she is gifted with a fluent tongue, especially if it is backed by some of that hard common sense which so many Chinese exhibit, it must be a very peculiar household in which she does not hold her own. Real ability will assert itself, and such light as a Chinese woman possesses will assuredly permeate every corner of the domestic bushel under which it is of necessity hidden. If a Chinese wife has a violent temper, if she is able at a moment’s notice to raise a tornado about next to nothing, and to keep it for an indefinite period blowing at the rate of a hundred miles an hour, the position of such a woman is almost certainly secure. The most termagant of mothers-in-law hesitates to attack a daughter-in-law who has no fear of men or of demons, and who is fully equal to any emergency. A Chinese woman in a fury is a spectacle by no means uncommon. But during the time of the most violent paroxysms of fury, Vesuvius itself is not more unmanageable by man.

If a Chinese husband happens to be a person of a quiet habit, with no taste for tumults, he may possibly find himself yoked to a Xantippe who never for an instant relaxes the reins of her dominion. In such cases the prudent man will be glad to purchase “peace at any price,” and whatever the theory may be, the woman rules. Such instances are by no means infrequent. This is witnessed as well by what one sees and hears in Chinese society as well as by the many sayings which refer to the “man-who-fears-what-is-inside,” that is, the “hen-pecked man.” Although it is an accepted adage that

“A genuine cat will slay a mouse,
A genuine man will rule his house,”

yet there are numerous references to the punishment of “kneeling-by-the-bedside-holding-a-lamp-on-the-head,” which is the penalty exacted by the regnant wife from her disobedient husband.

If a Chinese woman has the heaven-bestowed gift of being obstreperous to such a degree that, as the sayings go, “people do not know east from west”; that “men are worn out and horses exhausted”; that “the mountains tremble and the earth shakes,” this is unquestionably her surest life-preserver. It is analagous to the South American toucan, which is said to frighten away enemies by the mere exhibition of itself, they not caring to wait for further and detailed proofs of its capacities of execution. But if such an endowment has been denied her, her next best resource is to pursue a course exactly the opposite, in all circumstances and under all provocations holding her tongue. To most Chinese women, this seems to be a feat as difficult as aA"rial navigation, but now and then an isolated case shows that the difficult is not always the impossible.

The present position of woman in China is a heritage of the remote past, as is illustrated by the most ancient Chinese literature, an example of which heads the present chapter. The instructions and the prohibitions in the Book of Rites, one of the oldest and most venerated classical works, embody fundamental principles which have always governed the Chinese in their treatment of women. The essence of the Chinese classical teaching on this subject is, that woman is as inferior to man as the earth is inferior to heaven; and that she can never attain to full equality with man.

According to Chinese philosophy death and evil have their origin in the Yin, or female principle of Chinese dualism, while life and prosperity come from the subjection of it to the Yang, or male principle; hence it is regarded as a law of nature to keep woman completely under the power of man, and to allow her no will of her own. The result of this theory and the corresponding practice is that the ideal for women is not development and cultivation, but submission. Women can have no happiness of their own, but must live and work for men, the only practical escape from this degradation being found in becoming the mother of a son. Woman is bound by the same laws of existence in the other world. She belongs to the same husband, and is dependent for her happiness on the sacrifices offered by her descendants.

It is occasionally objected that to attribute the evils attending the lot of woman in China to the moral system which has molded and preserved that empire, is as inaccurate as it would be to hold Christianity responsible for all the moral evils found in Christian lands. Between the two cases there is, however, this fundamental difference. Every moral evil has from the beginning been antagonized by Christianity. Those evils that still flourish do so in spite of it, and against its unceasing efforts and incessant protest. Christianity acting upon the relatively lofty conception of woman, held by the Teutonic races, has gradually brought about that elevation of the sex which we now witness in full development. The theory of Confucianism, on the other hand, is both erroneous and defective. It is therefore no exaggeration to charge a large part of the evils from which Chinese women suffer to this efficient cause. It is moreover highly important to remember that neither for evils arising from wrong moral teaching nor for others, has Chinese ethics ever furnished either preventive or remedy.

We must, therefore, regard the position of women in China, as the ultimate outcome and a most characteristic fruitage of Confucianism. In our view it has been a bitter fruit, and in recapitulation we would lay emphasis upon seven deadly sins in the relation of that system to woman.

I. Viewed from a purely Chinese point of view there is no inherent objection to the education of Chinese women. In one of the huge Chinese encyclopedias, out of 1,628 books, 376 are devoted to famous women, and of these four chapters treat of female knowledge, and seven others of the literary productions of women, works which have been numerous and influential. But as compared with the inconceivable numbers of Chinese women in the past, these exceptional cases are but isolated twinkles in vast interstellar spaces of dense darkness. Yet in view of the coming regeneration of China, their value as historical precedents to antiquity loving Chinese is beyond estimation.

Rare and unimportant exceptions aside, Chinese women are provided with no education. Their minds are left in a state of nature, until millions of them are led to suppose that they have no minds at all, an opinion which their fathers, husbands and brothers often do much to confirm, and upon which they then habitually act.

II. The sale of wives and daughters. This comes about so naturally, and it might almost be said so inevitably, when certain conditions prevail, that it is taken by the Chinese as a matter of course. Except in years of famine it appears in some parts of the empire to be rare, but in other parts it is the constant and the normal state of things for daughters to be as really sold as are horses and cattle.

There are sections of northern China in which it is not uncommon for a man who has contracted debts which he cannot otherwise pay, to part with a daughter as a last resort. But there are other districts where the practice cannot be exceptional, as is evident from the great number of girls who, one is told, have been procured from this region. If the Chinese themselves are questioned about the matter, the fact is always admitted, the custom is reprobated, but the universally conclusive inquiry is propounded: “What help is there for it?” In the present condition of the empire this interrogatory is unanswerable.

III. Too early and too universal marriages. A considerable part of the unhappiness caused by Chinese marriages may fairly be charged to the immaturity of the victims. To treat children as if they were adults, while at the same time treating them as children who require the same watch and ward as other children, does not appear to be a rational procedure, nor can it be claimed that it is justified by its results. That a new pair constitute a distinct entity to be dealt with independently, is a proposition which Confucianism treats with scorn, if indeed it ever entertains such a conception at all. The compulsory marriage of all girls forces all Chinese society into cast-iron grooves, and leaves no room for exceptional individual development. It throws suspicion around every isolated struggle against this galling bondage, and makes the unmarried woman seem a personified violation of the decrees of heaven and of the laws of man.

IV. Infanticide of female infants. This is a direct, if not a legitimate result of the tenet that male children are absolutely indispensable, applied in a social system where dire poverty is the rule, and where an additional mouth frequently means impending starvation. In a chapter in her “Pagoda Shadows,” on “The Extent of a Great Crime,” Miss Fielde combines a great variety of testimony taken from several different provinces, in the following paragraph. “I find that 160 Chinese women, all over fifty years of age, had borne 631 sons, and 538 daughters. Of the sons, 366, or nearly sixty per cent., had lived more than ten years; while of the daughters only 205, or thirty-eight per cent., had lived ten years. The 160 women, according to their own statements, had destroyed 158 of their daughters; but none had ever destroyed a boy. As only four women had reared more than three girls, the probability is that the number of infanticides confessed to is considerably below the truth. I have occasionally been told by a woman that she had forgotten just how many girls she had had, more than she wanted. The greatest number of infanticides owned to by any one woman is eleven.”

Infanticide will never cease in China, until the notion that the dead are dependent for their happiness upon sacrifices offered to them by the living shall have been totally overthrown.

V. Secondary wives. Concubinage is the natural result of the Confucian theory of ancestral worship. The misery which it has caused and still causes in China is beyond comprehension. Nothing can uproot it but a decay of faith in the assumption underlying all forms of worship of the dead.

VI. Suicides of wives and daughters. The preceding causes, operating singly and in combination, are wholly sufficient to account for the number of suicides among Chinese women. The wonder rather is that there are not more. But whoever undertakes to collect facts on this subject for any given district will not improbably be greatly surprised at the extraordinary prevalence of this practice. It is even adopted by children, and for causes relatively trifling. At times it appears to spread, like the smallpox, and the thirst for suicide becomes virtually an epidemic. As already mentioned, according to the native newspapers, there are parts of China in which young girls band themselves into a secret league to commit suicide within a certain time after they have been betrothed or married. The wretchedness of the lives to which they are condemned is thoroughly appreciated in advance, and fate is thus effectually checkmated. It would be wrong to overstate the evils suffered by woman in China, evils which have indeed many alleviations, and which are not to be compared to those of her sisters in India or in Turkey. But after all abatements have been made, it remains true that the death-roll of suicides is the most convincing proof of the woes endured by Chinese women.

VII. Overpopulation. The whole Chinese race is and always has been given up with a single devotion to the task of raising up a posterity, to do for the fathers what the fathers have done for the grandfathers. In this particular line, they have realized Wesley’s conception of the ideal church in its line, where, as he remarked, the members are “All at it, and always at it.” War, famine, pestilence sweep off millions of the population, but a few decades of peace seem to repair the ravages of the past, which are lost to sight, like battlefields covered with wide areas of waving grain.

However much we may admire the recuperative power of the Chinese people as a whole and individually, it is difficult not to feel righteous indignation toward a system which violates those beneficent laws of nature which would mercifully put an end to many branches of families when such branches are unfitted to survive. It is impossible to contemplate with equanimity the deliberate, persistent, and uniform propagation of poverty, vice, disease and crime, which ought rather to be surrounded with every restriction to prevent its multiplication, and to see this propagation of evil and misery done, too, with an air of virtue, as if this were of itself a kind of religion, often indeed the only form of religion in which the Chinese take any vital interest.

It is this system which loads down the rising generation with the responsibility for feeding and clothing tens of thousands of human beings who ought never to have been born, and whose existence can never be other than a burden to themselves, a period of incessant struggle without respite and without hope.

To the intelligent foreigner, the most prominent fact in China is the poverty of its people. There are too many villages to the square mile, too many families to the village, too many “mouths” to the family. Wherever one goes, it is the same weary tale with interminable reiteration. Poverty, poverty, poverty, always and evermore poverty. The empire is broad, its unoccupied regions are extensive, and its undeveloped resources undoubtedly vast. But in what way can these resources be so developed as to benefit the great mass of the Chinese people? By none, with which we are acquainted, or of which we can conceive, without a radical disturbance of the existing conditions. The seething mass of over-population must be drawn off to the regions where it is needed, and then only will there be room for the relief of those who remain.

It is impossible to do anything for people who are wedged together after the manner of matches in a box. Imagine a surgeon making the attempt to set the broken leg of a man in an omnibus in motion, which at the time contained twenty other people, most of whom also had broken legs which likewise require setting! The first thing to do would be to get them all unloaded, and to put them where they could be properly treated, with room for the treatment, and space for breathing. It is, we repeat, not easy to perceive how even the most advanced political economy can do anything of permanent benefit for the great mass of the Chinese without a redistribution of the surplus population. But at this point practical Confucianism intervenes, and having induced the begetting of this swarm of human beings, it declares that they must not abandon the graves of their ancestors, who require their sacrifices, but must in the same spot continue to propagate their posterity to continue the interminable process.

The world is still large, and it has, and for ages will doubtless continue to have, ample room for all the additional millions which its existing millions can produce. The world was never so much in need of the Chinese as to-day, and never, on the other hand, were the Chinese more in need of the world. But if China is to hold its own, much more if it is to advance as other nations have advanced and do advance, it must be done under the lead of new forces. Confucianism has been a mighty power to build up, and to conserve. But Confucianism with its great merits has committed many “Deadly Sins,” and of those sins it must ultimately suffer the penalty. Confucianism as a developing force is a force, which is spent. Sooner or later it must give way to something stronger, wiser, and better.