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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/739

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TRADE CORPORATIONS IN CHINA.

to designate themselves some foreigner to superintend the weighings. Notwithstanding the good reputation of the corporation and the moderation of its requests, the foreign houses refused. All transactions were suspended, and the official in authority declared that he could not compel the merchants to sell contrary to their wish, and the foreign houses were eventually obliged to yield, one at a time.

The corporations likewise watch the transactions of their members, oppose fraud which might harm the good name of the association so far that the silversmiths will not permit one of their number to sell alloyed jewelry, even when the purchaser knows it is such. Some see that the taxes and duties on production are regularly and properly paid. Others, in the interest of the stability of the houses, forbid all fictitious sales and purchases, and most of the stock operations and a large number of commercial transactions which seem very simple to us would not be tolerated by them. The custom of selling short having been introduced upon the silver exchange in Peking a few years ago, a censor reported it as a kind of gambling, and the Government interdicted the operation—a very rare example of official intervention. Under a similar old-fashioned view, the corporation of bankers inquires into the total amount of the notes issued by its members. Every banker and every broker is free to issue notes, and little attention is paid to the precautions required by the law. But the corporation has an infallible means of restricting extravagance in the emission of bills. If a house is going so fast as to be in danger of compromising its credit and perhaps endangering the capital of others associated with it, an order is given, all the notes are thrown before the public, and the imprudent bank has to suspend its payments and retire.

The corporation further maintains its reputation and keeps on good terms with public powers by expenditures on ceremonials and charities. Every year it appropriates a sum for the opening of the kitchens from which rice and millet broths are distributed to the poor of Peking. In case of famine or inundation, the quotas of the corporations do not have to be waited for, while the more prominent commercial men also contribute largely under their own names. They will subscribe for a testimonial to a mandarin who has done good service, will help prepare the road over which an imperial procession is to pass, and will contribute to the pageantry of popular religious ceremonials.

Each corporation has its patron divinity, who is the object of a special cult. With one it is the' god of riches; with another Koan Yu, god of war; with others a spirit of more limited competency,