Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/37

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SCIENCE AMONG THE CHINESE

V. The Outlook

1. The language difficulty is being struggled with, style is being simplified, punctuation lias been introduced. The language is growing and becoming clearer in the hands of modern trained Chinese. The development of the language so as to be able adequately to express the content of modern knowledge presents a most tremendous problem, which only native scholars highly trained in modern thought and equally familiar with their native tongue and its previous development can solve. It will take time, but this difficulty will ultimately be overcome. It is, however, an even greater problem than would have been presented had all the content of modern knowledge knocked at the door of eleventh-century English and demanded immediate expression. The unification of the language of the Empire as foreshadowed by the present determination to make Mandarin universally known will of course aid in this development. So long as this language difficulty remains so largely unsolved, it will be necessary to conduct the higher grades of instruction in the sciences with English as the medium—at least for those who are themselves to be leaders in this renaissance. To have a share in the preparation of men who will solve this problem is about as far as the foreigner can hope to go.

2. A more widespread contact with translations of western books is slowly but surely bringing the reading Chinese into a fuller appreciation of western or more scientific thinking. Their increasing familiarity with the inventions and methods of the west is undermining their superstition, as is also the spread of Christian theology. Eecently we came across two very amusing indications of the difficulties involved in such an awakening among the common people—one in Shantung and one in Hunan, both with regard to the telegraph.

In Shantung an old farmer was seen contemplating the telegraph wire as it wended its crooked way across his fields. His neighbor remarked that the men who could devise and make use of such a line for the transmission of intelligence could do anything, but the old man replied that he did not think it was worth very much, because he had sat for some weeks watching the wire closely and he had not yet seen anything go by.

In Hunan, in traversing the main high road from Heng Chow to Yung Chow, we noticed a great number of worn-out straw sandals of carrying coolies, tied in pairs, hanging over the telegraph wire at many places along the line. At one place between poles, there were at least a dozen pairs, and on inquiring of the coolies what the meaning was, we learned that since the coolies were paid by the journey it was very advantageous for them to be swift of foot, and so when their sandals were worn out with much travel, if they succeeded in tossing a pair