Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 87.djvu/86

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cites the experience of Abbé Huc. Having occasion to send a messenger, the latter thought that a Chinese schoolmaster who was working for him might desire to improve the opportunity to send a letter to his old mother whom he had not seen for four years. The schoolmaster, upon hearing that the messenger would leave soon, called one of his pupils, saying: "Take this paper and write me a letter to my mother." M. Huc was surprised and proceeded to inquire whether the boy was acquainted with the teacher's mother. Receiving a negative reply, he said: "How then is he to know what to write?" The schoolmaster answered: "Doesn't he know quite well what to say? For more than a year he has been studying literary composition, and he is acquainted with a number of elegant formulas. Do you think he does not know perfectly well how a son ought to write to a mother?"[1] The boy returned the letter to his teacher sealed, and it was thus forwarded. It would "have answered equally well for any other mother in the Empire."

The tremendous population of China is also largely the outgrowth of the requirement of Confucianism that the son shall worship at the grave of his deceased parents. No greater honor can come to a woman than to be the mother of a son. If she fails of this, she is not infrequently obliged to make room for another who can bear a son, for no man is content until he has a son who can worship at his grave. Until this superstition is brought under the light of reflection, excessive propagation will continue and with it moral development will be retarded.

But withal the situation is somewhat better than it would appear. Fortunately for China, agencies have been at work in the past that were operative in the right direction. Of these, we may distinguish both rationalizing and socializing forces. The value of these agencies as factors in promoting moral development depends largely upon their advancing pari passu. Rationalizing forces make for systematic conduct based upon natural law as a result of reflection and scientific control; socializing forces contribute to a more equal distribution of the concrete things that satisfy the health, wealth, sociability, knowledge, beauty, rightness, and religion desires of the human being. Two men stand out very prominently in Chinese history, previous to the present reform movement, as making a serious attempt to break away from custom and advance the moral condition of the Chinese. Their efforts were not crowned with success at the time, but they served to keep alive the spark of progress which was all but extinguished.

The first was Wang An-shih of the Sung Dynasty, A.D. 1055-1085. Realizing the poverty-stricken condition of his people in contrast to their prosperity under the sage emperors Yao and Shun and Chou Kung, he was very anxious to do something for them. The Emperor Shen-

  1. Ibid., pp. 180, 181.