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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 71.djvu/264

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264
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

THE CHINAMAN AND THE FOREIGN DEVILS

DETROIT, MICHIGAN

THE ancient examination halls at Peking have been transformed into a military school. To the western mind there is nothing startling in the item, nor significance beyond the fact that it suggests that China is at last rousing from her centuries of complacent introspection and retrospection, and purposes to learn something which the rest of the world has found useful. A mere change in the curriculum of certain Chinese students, it would seem, of less interest to mankind in general than if Oxford should suddenly abandon the study of divinity or the humanities. But to the Chinaman it means more. It is a change of greater moment, more revolutionary than would be the overthrow of the Manchu Dynasty. Indeed, a dynastic change would be comparatively an insignificant and commonplace event. In the fourteen hundred years since the course of studies was prescribed by which the Chinese student fits himself to enter the aristocratic order of the literati, and thereby to become eligible to government office, the celestial empire has undergone a full score of revolutions, each one of which has resulted in the establishment of a new royal line. But during that period, which has witnessed the birth, decadence and death of christian empires, the requirements of Chinese scholarship have been unchanged. Until to-day, the student who presented himself at the triennial examination at Peking as a candidate for the highest degree attainable, the 'Chin Shi,' or 'Enrolled Scholar,' has been questioned on precisely the same subjects, tested by the same literary standard in his essays, as his predecessor of the sixth century; and has prepared himself for the ordeal by the study of classics that were hoary before the christian era began. The change has come. Philosophy must yield a place to the art of war. Its import to China, the most ancient, the most conservative, the most peace-loving nation on earth, is beyond our power to estimate. Its portent to the world at large is hardly to be conceived; to be conjectured, however, on a review of some of the features of the rough schooling by which this placid people has been educated to its needs.

It is many years since the powers began prodding the Yellow Dragon, with bayonets and otherwise, in the determination to awaken him from his lethargy; but it is only of late that they have begun to ask, with a faint quaver of trepidation, 'Suppose he should rouse . . .