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Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 130.djvu/709

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DUTY OF WOMAN FROM A CHINESE POINT OF VIEW.

cold, bring them their food," and supply them with new shoes when necessary; they must obey their orders and endure their anger without replying." A young lady when grown up and married is enjoined not to forget the benefits she has received from her parents. "Once or twice a year she ought to ask her husband's leave to go and see them." Nothing is said, however, on the subject of return visits on the part of the mother-in-law. Ample directions are given as to the bride's behavior towards her husband and the members of his family. "From the remotest antiquity to the present time the rule in marriage is that the husband commands and the wife obeys. In all matters it is the husband who will decide, and it is the duty of the wife to conform to his decision." Not only is the wife to obey her husband, but she is to be even more attentive and respectful to his parents than towards her own." She must inquire after their health night and morning, help them to go in and out, always meet them with a smiling countenance, obey their orders, bring them food and drink at appointed times, and joyfully offer to wash their clothes, caps, and sashes. She must furnish them with new shoes, new clothes, and new blankets, fulfil all their wishes without delay, and make every effort to satisfy them. "Your new parents," she is told, "have the right to scold you if you are in the wrong," and under such circumstances she is only at liberty to reproach herself, and not to utter a single word against them. Younger sisters residing with their married brothers are enjoined neither to hate nor deceive their sisters-in-law, and if the latter have faults they are to conceal and not divulge them. For it is remarked that "young girls are too fond of telling everything, thereby causing serious misunderstandings."

A very delicate section, but one which has no application in this country, is that treating of "the consideration to be shown towards the second wife." If the first wife has not the happiness to give birth to a male child, the husband chooses a person whom he loves, in order to have a son who will continue his race. In these circumstances, remarks the sage, it does not do to give way to sentiments of jealousy, for it is necessary that all who live in the same house should maintain amicable relations. But he concludes by recording the sad fact that "nowadays great dissensions exist between first and second wives. Out of a hundred first wives scarcely more than one or two are of a mild and affable character." For this reason he considers it all the more necessary to impress upon such of his fair readers as have to yield their places to second wives the desirability of controlling their feelings.

The rules laid down for the management of children are very few. They are to be kept clean, they are not to be allowed to eat and drink gluttonously, nor to play too much for fear of contracting idle habits; and whenever a visitor arrives the girls are to be sent away and the boys only presented. Here also there are rules for summoning servants of both sexes. Their master is to exhibit towards them a serious air, and to forbear jesting with them on any pretence; but if they have committed a fault they are on the first occasion to be called to account — on the next they may be beaten. Paterfamilias, after reprimanding his butler for making too free with the '32 port, is afterwards justified in kicking him downstairs. The calculating wisdom of the Celestial crops out in the advice given to feed servants well, "since if you are sparing of their food they will be sparing of their exertions." As regards one's neighbors the having of a good understanding with them is held up as "a magnificent thing," and elsewhere "unity between neighbors" is proclaimed to be an "inestimable jewel."

The section devoted to "woman's work" may possibly not find favor in the eyes of the advocates of woman's rights. Chinese women are enjoined to rise early, since "as spring is the most favorable season for the work of the year, so is the dawn for that of the day." They are, moreover, bidden to take care of the hemp and the mulberry-trees; to spin with zeal silk and cotton for their own use; to learn to cut out and make their own garments, and not to have recourse to assistance elsewhere; to wash these when they get soiled in order not to become an object of repugnance to others; while such leisure time as they can find is to be devoted to making shoes for their husbands and children, their fathers and mothers in law. Mr. Buckmaster and other professors of the school of cookery will be pleased to learn that in China the care of the kitchen is regarded as one of the first of the wife's duties. Morning and evening she has to prepare the necessary dishes of fish, meat, soup, and vegetables, taking care that they are neither too salt nor too sour, and that the cups and plates are always clean. When a guest arrives tea and hot water are to be at once served, the one for internal, the other for external use. The wife is enjoined always to fall in with her husband's