Read IN SHANGHAI of An Ohio Woman in the Philippines, free online book, by Emily Bronson Conger, on

But it is time to bid Japan good-bye and sail for China. It is a three days’ voyage from Nagasaki to Shanghai. We left the ship at the broad mouth of the Yang-tse-Kiang and in a small river boat went up a tributary to Shanghai, a distance of twelve miles.

I was met at the dock by our Consul General, John Goodnow, and his wife, with their elegantly liveried coachman, and was taken to the consulate, and, after a fine tiffin (lunch), we started for the walled city. A shrinking horror seized me as if I were at the threshold of the infernal regions as we crossed the draw bridge over the moat and entered the narrow gate of the vast city of more than a million souls. Immediately we were greeted by the “wailers” and lepers, this was my first sight of the loathsome leprosy. Our guide had supplied himself with a quantity of small change. Twenty-five cents of our money made about a quart of their small change. A moment later we met the funeral cortege of a rich merchant. First came wailers and then men beating on drums; then sons of the deceased dressed in white (white is their emblem of mourning); then the servants carrying the body on their shoulders. More wailers followed, then came the wives. It made a strange impression.

The streets are so very narrow that we had to press our bodies close against the wall to keep from being crushed as the procession passed us. We heard the tooting of a horn. Our guide said, “Here comes the Mandarin.” We began to press ourselves into a niche in the wall to watch him pass. First came the buglers, then the soldiers and last the gayly-bedecked Mandarin carried in a sedan chair on the shoulders of six coolies. He looked the very picture of the severe authority that he is invested with. They say that he has witnessed in one day the execution of five hundred criminals. He was obliged to put a mark on each one’s head with his own fingers, and, after the head was severed from the body, to remark it in proof of the exactness of his work. I was glad when I had seen the last of him, though it is only to go from bad to worse.

In the opium dens, hundreds of people, of both sexes, of various ages, kinds and colors, were reclining in most horrible attitudes. One glimpse was enough for me.

From this place we entered the temple. One of our guides said he was obliged to buy joss-sticks and kneel before the gods or it would make us trouble, because they are watchful of what foreigners do. They consider us white devils. We saw a war god nine feet high mounted on a war steed one foot high, a child’s woolly toy. There were placed before the gods about six or eight cups of tea and hundreds of fragrant burning tapers.

At one point our hearts failed us. We came to a dark bridge; it looked so forbidding with its various windings, so frail in structure, so thronged, that we were timid about stepping upon it. Being assured that it was safe we ventured across. While it shook under our weight, we did not fall into the filthy frog-pond beneath.

When we reached the center, there were a number of sleight-of-hand performers who were doing all sorts of curious things; bringing out of the stone pavement living animals, bottles of wine, bits of porcelain, and cakes, too filthy looking even to touch.

There were for sale numbers of beautiful birds in cages and wonderful bits of art of most intricate patterns and exquisite fineness. We saw beautiful pieces of brocaded silk and satin on little hand-looms, made by these patient, ever working people, who only have one week in the year for rest. There does not seem to be any provision made for night or rest, and each Chinaman looks forward to this one holiday week in which he does no work whatever, and in which he must have all the money ready to pay every debt he owes or be punished.

I did not learn how much the average Chinaman gets for a day’s wages, but I know that one of my friends sent a dozen linen dresses to be laundried, and that the charge was thirty-six cents. To be sure a satin dress that she sent to be cleaned was put in the tub with the rest. In the markets were impossible looking sausages, dried ducks, and curious frogs. In China, as in Japan, each individual has his own little table about two feet long, fourteen inches wide and six or eight inches high, not unlike a tray.

Their religion is centuries old, but if cleanliness be next to godliness, they are still centuries away from Christian virtues. The vast city crowded from portal to portal is one seething mass of living beings pushing, hustling, and silent. With the exception of a soothsayer, I did not see in an entire day two people talking together, so intent were they on their various duties.

It was a joy to get out of the native into the European parts of Shanghai and feel safe; and yet there was not a single thing, upon thinking it over, that one could say was alarming, not a disrespectful look from any one. I said upon reaching the outer gate, “Thank God, we are out of there alive and safe.” It was the first experience only to be renewed with like scenes and impressions at Canton, with the same thankfulness of heart, too, for escape.

Our guide told us that he would be in no way responsible for anything that might happen in traveling about Canton. The land and its people are a marvel and a mystery; the great wonder is how all this vast multitude can be reached and helped.

The rivers teem with all sorts of junks filled with all sorts of wares going to market, and it was upon the quays that we found for sale the finest carved things, the richest embroideries, the most delicately wrought wares. The monkey seems to be a favorite subject with the artist. Look at these exquisite bits of carved ivory. This one is the god monkey who sees no evil, his hands cover his eyes; this one is the god monkey who hears no evil, his hands cover his ears; and this one is the god monkey who speaks no evil, his hands cover his mouth. Half ashamed of our own dullness an old lesson came back with new significance, be blind, deaf, and dumb towards evil.

One curiously wrought specimen of art was an inkwell encircled by nine monkeys. In the center, on the lid, was the finest monkey of all; the diversity of bodily attitudes, the variety of facial expressions, and the perfection of all was wonderful. Temple cloths, with pictures of various gods embroidered in fine threads of gold, were marvels of patient labor.

We once entertained at our home in Akron a converted Chinaman who had come to Gambier, Ohio, to study for the ministry. After the lapse of many years his son came to Ohio to be educated. It was interesting to hear him tell of the ways and customs of his native land. I asked him about servants being so very cheap, and he informed me that good servants might not be considered so cheap. The best families, according to the value they place upon the friendship of their friends, pay for every present received a certain per cent. of its value to their servants; and at every birthday of any member of the family, every wedding, every birth and death, there are hundreds of presents exchanged. I saw many servants in the large cities carrying these various gifts, and some of the servants were dressed very well, having, on the garments they wore, the coat-of-arms or rank of their master. On a little table or tray was placed the richly embroidered family napkin with the gift neatly wrapped therein, and on both sides were placed lighted tapers or artificial flowers.

As with Shanghai so with all the coast towns of China, there is the old walled city swarming with millions of natives, and the new or European city as modern as New York. My two days’ stay seemed like two weeks, so full was it of strange sights.

On returning to the Gaelic, I was pleased to find that two Americans had been added to our passenger list. Indeed, it was the last of the many kindly offices of Mr. Goodnow to introduce me to Rev. and Mrs. C. Goodrich. These new friends were delightful traveling companions. For a longer stay at Hong Kong and a much better boat to Manila, I was indebted to their thoughtfulness for me.

We were told that we must all get in position to watch the entrance at Hong Kong. Captain Finch said that for fifteen years he always went down from the bridge as soon as he could to see the wonderful display of curious junks and craft of every conceivable kind that swarmed about the boat, some advertising their wares, some booming hotels, some fortune-telling in hieroglyphics which only the Chinese can interpret.

Before our boat dropped anchor there were hundreds of Celestials climbing up the sides of the ship with all kinds of articles for sale. There were sleight-of-hand performers, there were tumblers of red looking stuff to drink; there were trained mice and rats. We had a man on shipboard who was very clever with these sleight-of-hand tricks, but he said he could not see where they got a single one of the reptiles and articles that they would take out of the ladies’ hands, their bonnets, and his own feet, which were bare.

The city of Hong Kong is built upon a rock whose sides are almost vertical. The city park is considered one of the finest in the world. It has been said that every known tree and shrub is grown there; and when one considers that every foot of its soil has been carried to its place, the wonder is how it has all been done. The blossoms seem to say, “The whole world is here and in bloom.” The banyan tree grows here luxuriantly and is a great curiosity. The main trunk of the tree grows to the height of about thirty or forty feet. The first branches, and indeed many of the upper branches, strike down into the ground. These give the trees the appearance of being supported on huge sticks. As to the bamboo, it is the principal tree of which they build their houses, and make many articles for export in the shape of woven chairs, tables, and baskets of most intricate and beautiful designs, most reasonable in price. The first shoots in spring are used as food and make a delicious dish. It is prepared like cauliflower. Our much despised “pussley” proves to be a veritable blessing here; it makes a nice green or salad.

China seemed like one vast graveyard, full of huge mounds from three to five feet high, without special marking. Each family knows where its own ancestors are buried. One of the reasons why they oppose the building of railroads through their country is their reverence for these burial piles.

One of the very best missionary establishments that I know anything about is the hospital in Shanghai. The institution is full to overflowing and the amount of good that the nurses do there is beyond human measure. I heard pathetic stories almost beyond belief; I hope that the grand workers in that field are supplied with all they need in the way of money.

Servants seldom remain at night in the house of their employers or partake of the food that is prepared for the household. The rich enjoy pleasure trips on the house-boats; they take their servants, horses, and carriages with them, and leaving the river at pleasure they journey up through the country to the inland towns. One cannot understand how the poor exist as they do on their house-boats. Of course, those hired by the Americans and English are well appointed, but a large proportion of the inhabitants are born, live, and die on these junks which do not seem large enough to hold even two people and yet multitudes live on them in squalor and misery. I have a great respect for the determination of Chinese children to get an education. It is truly wonderful that with more than fifty thousand characters to learn, they ever acquire any knowledge. Some of the scholars study diligently all their lives, trying to the last to win prizes.