Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/742

This page has been validated.

their credit, and the number of their branches or correspondents, have no rivals in north China. All exchange operations are carried on in the money market, which is held every day in the southeastern part of the city, on the street, near the Tauist Temple, where all the houses in Peking are represented, and every one takes care to be so, lest he be thought in default. "When the rate is fixed the news is dispatched by couriers, pigeons, etc., to all whom it concerns. The couriers of the corporation, who communicate with the brokers and bankers, are also the confidential agents of the syndics, are acquainted with the amounts of the emissions of each house, know whether a certain patron is really ill or only feigning, and by their reports decide who shall be boycotted or declared insolvent. All this goes on in full liberty, without surveillance by the state, without any tax on the transactions, and without any other interference than the prohibition of fictitious dealings. The corn market is in the same way the almost exclusive domain of the corn corporation, the state never interfering except in the case of a famine in the region.

Besides the merchants' corporations, there exist also corporations of artisans. The embroiderers, the makers of cloisonné, the tanners, and the carpenters have theirs. The carriers and the boatmen, who, before the opening of the railway, had the monopoly of transportation between Peking and the provinces without forming associations, met at their respective inns and established rules and rates for their business. Informal organizations, varying among the different towns in their degrees of development, exist among the barbers—who at Peking meet every year for a sacrifice and a banquet—the chair-bearers, and the jinrikisha men, and so every city has its corporations and associations which are not like those of the next city.

Some branches of trade have no corporations, and the peasants, when they come to town to sell their produce, trade on their own account, for the best terms they can get, and have to accept, in the market, an organization the origin of which is forgotten. Every year, on the appearance of each sort of crop, the King ki of the market, having agreed with the dealers, fixes the minimum price of the commodity for the season. He also polices the market. The function of King ki is the property of the person who exercises it, who has bought it from his predecessor and will sell it to his successor by private contract, and nobody contests his right. In the market for azaroles the position is hereditary. The monopoly of the corporations is often complicated with a provincial question. The Chinaman regards every man who was born in another district as a foreigner—still more if he is of another prov-