Popular Science Monthly/Volume 58/November 1900/China
EVER since the days when Marco Polo brought back to Europe the seeming fairy tales of the wonderland of the Far East, the country to which we have applied the name of China has been a field more and more attractive for commercial conquest.
At the close of the nineteenth century, when the ever-rising tide of industrial development has succeeded in sweeping over Europe, America, the better portion of Africa, of Western Asia and India, it is the Chinese Wall alone that resists its waves. The movement, however, is irresistible, and not even the exclusiveness of the Chinese and their extreme disinclination to change their ways will be a sufficient protection against it; the recent so-called 'Boxer 5 outbreak will probably prove to be the death knell to Chinese resistance. Whatever may be the outcome of this outbreak, in so far as it affects the government, or the political integrity of the country, it can be predicated in safety that the commercial and industrial life of China will be revolutionized, and the beginning of the twentieth century will be found to mark the dawning of a new era.
The present moment when we are about to pass from the old into the new state of things is a fitting time to survey the field of industrial enterprise by examining into what has been done and to ascertain the sort of foundation that has been prepared, on which the Chinese people, aided at first by foreigners, will eventually of themselves erect their own industrial structure.
In the consideration of this very interesting land there seems to be a surprise at every turn, and one of the most peculiar is that we are met at the outset by the curious circumstance that it is a country without a name. The Chinese themselves have no fixed designation for their country, using as a general thing either the 'Middle Kingdom,' or the 'Celestial Kingdom,' or the 'Great Pure Kingdom.' The interpretation of the first is that the people consider China to be the center of the world, all the other countries surrounding and being tributary to it; although the term probably originated when what is now the Province of Ho-nan was the central kingdom of several other kingdoms which went to make up a united country. The name 'Celestial Kingdom' is a piece of self-flattery, the Chinese Emperor being called in like manner the 'Son of Heaven;' while the last name, that of the 'Great Pure Kingdom,' follows the designation of the present ruling house, which styles itself the 'Pure Dynasty,' in contradistinction to the preceeding dynasty which it overthrew, and which was called the Ming or 'Bright Dynasty.' The foreigner's appellation of China is of uncertain origin, hut it is supposed to mean the land of Chin or Tsin, a family that ruled about 250 b. c., and even this name is used indiscriminately as covering two areas very different in size. When we use the word China it may mean the Chinese Empire proper, the empire of the eighteen provinces; or it may mean the eighteen provinces and the dependencies of Manchuria, Mongolia and Tibet, whose bond of attachment to the empire, in strength, is in the above order. The eighteen provinces comprise in area about 1,500,000 square miles, or an area about equal to that portion of the United States lying east of Colorado. The shape of the empire proper is substantially rectangular, extending from the latitude of 42° north, which is about that of New York, to 18° north, or the latitude of Vera Cruz. When the dependencies are included under the title of China the northern boundary is carried to the forty-eighth parallel, or say the latitude of New Foundland, and the whole has an area of over 4,000,000 square miles, a greater surface than that of Europe, or of the United States and Alaska combined. This great area is reputed to support a population of upwards of 400,000,000; figures, however, which I will later point out to be, in my belief, a gross exaggeration, but the balance, even after the most conservative reductions, will still easily be the greatest single contiguous conglomeration of people under one ruler. Racially speaking, they are a conglomeration. Who the Chinese were originally is not known. It is generally believed that they came from Western or Central Asia, and, conquering the scattering nomadic tribes inhabiting what is now China, seized their country.
In the dependencies and Chinese proper we find distinctly different peoples, with their individual customs; while scattered about the empire proper are settlements of strange tribes, whose origin is absolutely unknown but who are believed to be relics of the aboriginal inhabitants.
Lack of intercommunication has allowed the language of the Chinese to become locally varied, and to such an extent, that although the written characters are the same, the spoken dialect of the North and South are so different as to be mutually unintelligible. There are said to be in the empire proper eight dialects, each again being many times subdivided by local colloquialisms. Of these dialects the most important is the so-called Mandarin or Pekingese, the dialect of the North and the official language of the country, for it is the one which all government officials are required to learn and use. It therefore holds the position in respect to other dialects that the French formerly held in Europe as the Court tongue, or language of diplomacy and officialism.
Historically, China enjoys the distinction of being the oldest continuing nation in the world. Fairly authentic records trace back the course of events to about 3,000 years b. c., so that it rightly claims an existence of at least 5,000 years. Previous to this period there is a vast amount of legendary matter in which probability and fiction have not yet been separated.
China's own historians, with characteristic conceit, make out their country's history to be contemporaneous with time. Owing to her seclusion and isolation from the affairs of other nations, China's history possesses a local rather than a world's interest, and for the most part is a record of the rise and fall of the several tribes or peoples going to make up the nation, each such change establishing a new dynasty. However, there are certain epochs of general interest and certain salient points in the nation's development and growth that should be understood and kept in mind if any study of China or of things Chinese is undertaken.
Accepted Chinese chronology begins with the reign of Fuh-hi in the year 2852 b. c. As to the significance of that date it is interesting to note that it is four hundred years before the rise of the Egyptian monarchy, five hundred years before that of Babylon and precedes the reputed time of Abraham by a period almost as long as the whole record of English history, from the conquest to the present time.
In the Chau Dynasty, which lasted from b. c. 1122 to b. c. 249, we find the great period in Chinese literature, an era comparable with that of Elizabeth in our records. In 550 b. c. Confucius was born, whose philosophical reasonings, owing to the long time he antedated the spread of Christianity and Mohammedanism, have affected the thought of more human beings than the writings or sayings of any other man, with the possible exception of Buddha.
Although Confucius is the central figure of the epoch, there are at least two other men substantially contemporaneous with him, and who are but only a little less prominent, Liao-tze, who preceded him fifty years, and Mencius, who followed him one hundred years. The former was a religious philosopher, on whose writings there has been founded the doctrine of Taoism. This philosophy is based on Reason (Tao) and Virtue (Teh), and is of interest in that it leans towards an eternal monotheism. According to his theory the visible forms of the highest Teh can only proceed from Tao, and Tao, he says, is impalpable, indefinite. Taoism, therefore, contemplates the indefinite, the eternal and a preexistent something which Liao-tze likens to the 'Mother of all things,' or what we call a creator.
In Chinese literature there are the nine classics, the five greater and the four lesser books. The former are Yih-King, the Book of Changes; Shu-King, Historical Documents; Shi-King, the Book of Odes; Li-Ki, the Book of Rites, and Chun-Tsin, a continuation of the Shu-King. Of the above, the second, third and fourth, although long antedating Confucius, were edited by him, while the fifth is from his pen. The four lesser classics are Ta-Hioh, Great Learning; Chung-Yung, the Just Medium; the Analects of Confucius; and the writings of Mencius. The last is the great production of Mencius, while the first three are a digest of the moralizings of Confucius as gathered by his disciples.
On these nine books are founded Chinese philosophy, morals, thought, religion, education, ethics and even etiquette. The spirit of the matter in the classics is essentially lofty, moral and good.
In China, learning transcends all else in importance, and as Confucius is considered as the fountain head of literature and learning, so he has become to be regarded as Europeans in the Middle Ages regarded saints, and temples to his honor are found in all large cities. The most important is the beautiful example of Chinese architecture in Peking, where the Emperor annually worships before his tablet. In spite of this apparent adoration, Confucius is not regarded by the Chinese as a god, but is clearly understood by them to have been a man, a philosopher and the embodiment of wisdom, and is revered as such. He was not the founder of a religion, nor was he a religious writer, although his sentiments have become woven in the complicated fabric of Chinese faith. The name by which foreigners know him is a latinized corruption of Kung-tze, the Master Kung, the last being his family name, as Mencius is a similar corruption of Mang-tze, the Master Mang.
Following the Chau dynasty comes that of Tsin, which was noted for supplying the foreign appellation of the country and for the great works, both good and bad, of its name-giving Emperor. It was he who united the various peoples of Eastern Asia under one sway; laid the foundation for at least internal commerce by beginning the construction of the Chinese system of canals, started the construction of the Great Wall and succeeded in raising his country to a point of material greatness not before reached. Then, with a view to make all records begin with him, he ordered burned all books and writings of every description, including those of Confucius and the other philosophers. Fortunately, in spite of an energetic attempt, this sacrilegious act was not completely consummated.
From this period to the Tang dynasty in 618 a. d. the history of this country is a succession of different reigning houses, internal wars, rebellions, more or less successful, and during which the capital was frequently moved, part of the time being located at Nan-king on the Yang-tze, which many of the Chinese of to-day regard as the proper site. The great single event of this long stretch of years, and practically the only one of foreign interest, was the introduction of Buddhism at the close of the first century a. d.
The Emperor Ming-ti sent an embassy to the West to bring back the teachings of the foreign god, rumors of whose fame had already reached the Pacific shore. It has since been supposed by some that this meant tidings of Christ; but the basis for such an inference is doubtful. At any rate the embassy found its way to India and returned thence with the doctrines of Buddhism, which at once became the established religion of the country, spreading over the whole of China and eventually Japan. It makes an interesting speculation to consider what the effect on the world would have been if the embassy had taken a more northern route, bringing it to Palestine instead of to India.
The Tang dynasty a. d. 618 to 908 marks perhaps the zenith of Chinese development, when, there is no doubt, its civilization and cultivation outshone those of Europe at the same period. Literature flourished; trade was nurtured, the banking system developed, laws were codified and the limits of the empire were extended even to Persia and the Caspian Sea. The art of printing was discovered, certainly in block form and probably by movable type. The fame of China reached India and Europe, whence embassies were despatched bearing salutations and presents. Monks of the Nestorian order were received by the Emperor Tai-tsung, who gave permission for them to erect churches, and thus was Christianity first publicly acknowledged in China. Although the efforts of the Nestorian monks continued for many years from perhaps as early as 500 a. d. to 845, yet they were without permanent results, as they left no monuments behind them, and the practice of Christianity was suspended for some centuries.
In 1213 a. d. the Chinese for the first time passed under a foreign rule, when Genghis Khan, the great Mongol, crossed the wall and began to lay waste the country. When he had captured Peking and established a Mongol dynasty, he turned his attention to further conquests, and in 1219 led a force westward. With it he overran Northern India, Asia Minor, and even entered Europe in Southern Russia. He then withdrew to Peking, having established the largest empire in the world's history. Under his degenerate successors this vast power dwindled, the only permanent result being found in Europe; for the presence of the Turks on that continent is due to the invasion of Genghis, as he drove them before him out of their own Asiatic country.
The last purely Chinese dynasty was the Ming (Bright) which occupied the throne from 1368 to its overthrow by the Manchus in 1644. The capital of this house was originally at Nan-king, but was moved by the great Emperor Yung-loh to Pekin in 1403, where he constructed the famous Ming Tombs forty miles northwest of the city, where he and his successors of Ming lie buried in solitary grandeur. He also established the laws under which China is governed to-day, and under him the seeds of Christianity were permanently planted in China in 1582 by the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci. About two hundred and fifty years before a temporary foothold had been gained by the same order. The first effort lasted, however, for but seventy-five years, and then, like the Nestorian movement, quietly died without practical results. It was also during this dynasty that the first foreign settlement was made on Chinese soil, in the Portuguese port of Macao in 1557.
In the seventeenth century the northern tribes set up a rebellion. Gaining adherents to their cause they captured Peking in 1644, swept away Chinese rule and established a Manchu dynasty, to which they gave the name of 'Ta Tsing' or the 'Great Pure' The principal effects of this change were to establish the northern races in control of the government and to stamp upon the whole people their most striking outward distinguishing mark in the queue, which was a distinctly Manchu custom, the Chinese having cut their hair like Western people. On their establishment the Manchu rulers ordered all people to wear the queue as a token of subjugation which the Chinese natives still do, although the Tibetans and Mongols continue to cut their hair as of old. Manchus and Chinese can be readily recognized by their names. Thus one of Manchu descent has but a double name, like Tung-lu, while a Chinese has three characters as, Li Hung-chang.
The government of China is an absolute imperialism, with powers vested in an Emperor, whose position is well indicated by his most used title, the 'Son of Heaven.' He is assisted by two councils under whom are the seven boards of: Civil Service, Revenue, Rites, War, Punishment, Works and Navy, who severally attend to the administration of affairs in their respective departments. Then there is the Tsung-Li-Yâmen, or foreign office; a bureau composed of twelve ministers, with and through whom all relations with other nations and foreigners generally are conducted.
The communication between the Imperial authority and the people is through the local governments of the provinces. These provinces in their organization closely resemble an American State, varying in size from Che-kiang, the smallest, within an area of 35,000 square miles, to Sz-chuen, the largest, embracing 170,000 square miles. These are respectively comparable with the States of Indiana (36,350 square miles) and California (156,000 square miles). Each province is ruled by a governor appointed by the throne, and he exercises his authority through a chain of officialism. The province is divided into circuits, each circuit being controlled by an intendant of circuit or taotai. In addition to the regular taotais, there are special ones appointed to look after the large treaty ports, like Shanghai. Such taotais have immense powers and the positions are much sought after. The circuits or 'Fu' are usually again subdivided into two or more 'Chau' or prefectures under a prefect, and each perfecture into Hsiens or districts, under a magistrate. Cities where such officials dwell are usually indicated by adding 'Fu,' 'Chau' or 'Hsien' to their names. The Hsien magistrates are the men who come in direct contact with the people. The Governor in turn reports to an officer properly styled a Governor-General, but whose title foreign nations have translated as Viceroy, each of whom usually controls two provinces. These Viceroys form the real government of the country. Their powers are absolute. It is to them, armed with judgment of life and death, that the people look for justice and protection, and to them, also, the throne itself looks for support. Each Viceroy maintains his own army, in some instance a portion of which has been foreign drilled, which army he has a right to decide whether he will use for national purposes or not.
Of the existing college of Viceroys, there are three who have brought themselves by their acts, abilities and force of character to the forefront, and who are known as the three great Viceroys. These men are Li Hung-chang, formerly Viceroy of Pe-chi-li, but now of Canton, ruling the provinces of Kwang-tung and Kwang-si, and so usually referred to as the Viceroy of the two Kwang; Chang Chi-tung, the Viceroy of Wu-chang, in like manner called the Viceroy of the two Hu, as his dominion covers the provinces of Hu-peh and Hu-nan, and Liu Kun-yi, the Viceroy of Nan-king, ruling the provinces of Kiang-su and Ngan-whui.
Li Hung-chang, whose reputation is international, needs no introduction. The other two, while, perhaps not so well known, are in China of scarcely less importance, especially as they have a personal hold on their people that is not equaled by any other official. They are not rich, which is almost the same as saying that they are honest, and, although they are decidedly pro-foreign in their views, nevertheless they are at the same time imbued with a strong and earnest desire to ameliorate the condition of their charges and, therefore, are honored and respected by their people. To accomplish this end they do not hesitate to avail themselves of occidental ideas or means if therein they see a possibility of benefit.
When the Empress Dowager in 1898 executed her coup d'etat and notified the Viceroys of what she had done, Chang Chi-tung and Liu Kun-yi were the only ones who had courage to express their disapproval. In consequence there is little doubt that she would have removed or beheaded them if she had dared to brave the outcry of the people of the four provinces, which would certainly have followed. In any reorganizationof China these three men will play an important part in which the influence of Chang Chi-tung and Liu Kun-yi will certainly be of weight as they enjoy the esteem and confidence of both foreigner and native.
In the appointing of all officials there is one rule that is curiously indicative of Chinese reasoning and methods. No official is allowed to serve in a district in which he was born. The reason for this is that, being a stranger, without local prejudice or interest, it is believed that he will administer justice quite impartially. Unfortunately, human nature being the same in China as elsewhere, the official, on account of his lack of local prejudice, administers justice in such a manner as will best promote his own interests and secure his advancement.
Topographically considered, China lies on the eastern flank of the great Central Asian plateau and, therefore, its main drainage lines lie east and west. There are three great valleys: that of the Yellow, in the north; Yang-tze in the center; and the Si (or West), in the south. The Yellow River, or Hoang-ho, or as it is frequently called, on account of its erratic and devastating floods, 'China's Sorrow,' is a stream very much resembling the Mississippi, carrying a great amount of alluvium, which it deposits at various places, forming bars and shoals. In order to protect the shores from inundations, the Chinese for many years have been building dykes with the result of gradually raising the bottom of the river through the deposition of alluvium. There are now many places where the bottom of the stream is actually higher than the normal banks. Under such circumstances the breaking of a dyke means untold destruction, with possible permanent change of bed. The location of its mouth shows the character of this great river. Eighty years ago it flowed into the Yellow Sea, south of the Shang-tung Peninsula. To-day it enters the Gulf of Pe-chi-li two hundred and fifty miles in a direct line northwest of its previous location, or about six hundred miles, when measured around the coast line. The Yang-tze, on the other hand, rightly merits its name of 'China's Glory.' This noble stream, whose length is about 3,500 miles, of which 1,100 miles are navigable by steam vessels, divides the country, approximately equally north and south. Its drainage area covers more than one-half of the empire, the richest and most valuable portion. This stream, like the Hoang-ho, carries a large amount of alluvial matter, but it is much more orderly and well regulated. Practically at its mouth, the gateway to Central China, although actually on a small tributary called the Wang-Poo, is Shanghai. The West River, or Si-Kiang, drains the southern and southwestern section of the empire, flowing into the sea at Canton, where with the Pei (North) and Pearl rivers it forms the broad estuary known as the Canton River.
In agricultural possibilities and mineral wealth China is particularly fortunate. On account of its great dimensions north and south it enjoys all varieties of climate from the tropical to the temperate, and in consequence possesses the ability to raise almost any crop. The great bottom lands of the Yang-tze, Hoang and other rivers, which are subject to annual overflow, are thus by nature enriched and automatically fertilized as are the bottom lands along the Mississippi and other alluvium-bearing streams. In addition to the ordinary advantages of soil and variety of climate to which such a large expanse is naturally entitled, China enjoys one special favor in the singular deposit known as Loess.
The country lying north from the Yang-tze to the Gulf of Pe-chi-li, part of which area has been made by the alluvial deposits of the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, is known as the Great Plain. Of this territory there is a considerable section in the provinces of Shen-si, Shan-si and Shan-tung, which is known as the Loess formation. This particular soil is yellow in appearance, resembling alluvial material, but on examination is found to consist of a network of minute capillary tubes. The best theory for its deposit is that it is the fine dust of dried vegetable matter carried down by the winds from the northwest plains and dropped where found. The fine tubes are accounted for by believing them to be the spaces occupied by the roots of grasses, as the latter have been continually raising themselves to keep on the consequently rising surface. The Loess soil is of great and unknown thickness, of extraordinary fertility and with great capacity for withstanding droughts, as the tubes by their capillary action serve to bring up moisture from the ground water below. This part of the Great Plain has been supplying crops for many centuries without fertilizing and supports the densest part of the Chinese population.
In minerals, China is particularly rich. Of the precious metals, gold and silver are known to exist, and probably in paying quantities, while of the less valuable metals, copper, lead, antimony and others have been found, and but await the introduction of proper transportation methods to be developed. Petroleum occurs in Sz-chuen, the extreme western province lying next to Tibet. But China's greatest mineral wealth lies in iron and coal. The great fields of the latter are in Pe-chi-li, Shen-si, Shan-si, Sz-chuen, Kiang-si and Hu-nan, where all varieties from soft bituminous to very hard anthracites are found. Of the former there are coals, both coking and non-coking, fit for steel-making or steam uses, while of the latter there are those adapted for domestic use, with sufficient volatile matter to ignite easily, and others sufficiently hard to bear the burden in a blast furnace and sufficiently low in phosphorus, sulphur and volatile substances to render them available for the manufacture of Bessemer pig, as is done in Pennsylvania. Chinese houses are usually without chimneys, and, therefore, the native is compelled to use for domestic purposes an anthracite, or, as he calls it, a non-smoking coal, which he burns in an open fireplace, the products of combustion escaping through the doors, unglazed windows or the many leaks which are usually found in Chinese roofs.
In opposing the introduction of occidental reforms, methods and commercial relations, China has invited, if not actually obliged, the forming of bases by other nations from which to push their trade. Chinese soil is now held, through some excuse and under various conditions, by Portugal, Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia and Japan. In addition to this Italy has made an unsuccessful attempt to secure a foothold at San Mun Bay.
The Portugese possession is Macao, situated on the western side of the mouth of the Canton River, a charming settlement covering the city and a few square miles of territory separated from the main land by a narrow neck. It is a delightful little piece of southern European refinement in an Oriental setting, and perhaps the only point on the coast to which the word charming can be rightly applied. It was the first foreign settlement in China, being ceded to Portugal in 1557 in return for services in putting down pirates. On account of the shallowness of the harbor, the importance of Macao as a trading point or military base is very small.
The British possessions are Hong Kong, Kow-loon and Wei-hai-wei. As a result of the Opium War of 1841, the island of Hong Kong, whose greatest dimension is but nine miles, and wholly mountainous, located at the eastern side of the Canton estuary, directly opposite to Macao, but distant therefrom about forty miles, was given over by China as a part of the indemnity. In 1860 there was added the shore of the main land, called Kow-loon, across the roadstead whose width is rather more than a mile, in order to complete the harbor. On this island the English have established a colony, built the city of Victoria, and through the magnificent land-locked harbor, have developed a trading point, whose commerce ranks with that of the world's greatest ports. There are no customs dues, no restricting conditions—all nations and nationalities have an equal footing, so that Hong Kong has become the great entrepôt or warehouse for nearly the whole of the Orient, and absolutely so for Southern China, whose gateway it controls. A year's record shows that over 11,000 vessels enter and clear, not including upwards of 70,000 junks. Thus have the English converted an apparently useless island into a most valuable possession for themselves and a great stepping-stone for the world's commerce.
The next country to establish a foothold on Chinese soil was France, who acquired from Annam, by war and treaty, between the years 1860 and 1874, part of the province of Tong-king. In 1882 further trouble arising between France and Annam, the latter appealed to her protector, China, and war ensued. The result was the permanent occupation of the whole of Tong-king and the placing of the French frontier next to that of China.
At the conclusion of the Japanese war, the island of Formosa was permanently ceded by China and an arrangement made for the temporary occupation of Port Arthur. Then Russia interfered, insisted on the withdrawal of the Japanese troops from the North, and, as her price for aiding China, secured a lease for twenty-five years of the Liao-tung Peninsula, covering eight hundred square miles, including the harbors of Port Arthur and Talien-wan, and so, practically obtained the control of Chinese Manchuria.
In 1897 two German missionaries having been killed, the German Emperor demanded as compensation a share of Chinese soil, which was granted through a 'lease' of Kiao-Chau Bay for ninety-nine years.
The following abbreviated quotations indicate the tenor of these curious arrangements:
"I. His Majesty the Emperor of China, being desirous of preserving the existing good relations with His Majesty the Emperor of Germany and promoting an increase of German power and influence in the Far East, sanctions the acquirement under lease by Germany of the land extending for one hundred li at high tide.
"Germany may engage in works for the public benefit, such as water-works, within the territory covered by the lease, without reference to China. Should China wish to march troops or establish garrisons therein she can only do so after negotiating with and obtaining the express permission of Germany.
"II. His Majesty the Emperor of Germany being desirous, like the rulers of certain other countries, of establishing a naval and coaling station and constructing dockyards on the coast of China, the Emperor of China agrees to lease to him for the purpose all the land on the southern and northern sides of Kiao-Chu Bay for a term of ninety-nine years. Germany is to be at liberty to erect forts on this land for the defense of her possessions therein.
"III. During the continuance of the lease China shall have no voice in the government or administration of the leased territory. It will be governed and administered during the whole term of ninety-nine years solely by Germany, so that the possibility of friction between the two powers may be reduced to the smallest magnitude.
"If at any time the Chinese should form schemes for the development of Shan-tung, for the execution of which it is necessary to obtain foreign capital, the Chinese government, or whatever Chinese may be interested in such schemes, shall, in the first instance, apply to German capitalists. Application shall also be made to German manufacturers for the necessary machinery and materials before the manufacturers of any other power are approached. Should German capitalists or manufacturers decline to take up the business, the Chinese shall then be at liberty to obtain money and materials from other nations."
While the area actually covered by the lease is small, the shore line being but one hundred li (thirty-three miles), nevertheless the Germans have thrown a sphere claim over the whole province of Shan-tung, an area as large as New England, based on the special commercial concession, as above quoted.
The strongholds of Kiao-Chau and Port Arthur, for the Germans and Russians immediately set about fortifying them, so threatened the balance of power in the North, that the British government in 1898, demanding something to offset them, secured the harbor of Wei-hai-wei, directly opposite Port Arthur and with it marking the entrance to the Gulf of Pe-chi-li. This territory is to be held as long as the Eussians hold Port Arthur. At the same time Great Britain extended the limits of the Kow-loon possession by two hundred square miles, so as to absolutely protect the harbor of Hong Kong, and secured from the Chinese government a promise that no territory in the Yang-tze Valley should be alienated to any other power, thus obtaining a so-called sphere of influence over the richest half of the empire. France, not wishing to see her commercial rivals outdo her, demanded, as her share of the plunder, the harbor and port of Kiang-chau-wau near her province of Tong-king and secured a lease of the same for ninety-nine years. Thus has the Chinese government given away its patrimony.
In addition to the above possessions of territory actually held under the domination of their respective governments, there are at the various treaty ports the so-called foreign concessions, which have been given by the Chinese government to the temporary care of the people of other nationalities, permitting them to establish a police force, courts of justice, fire protective service, to collect taxes for local use, and otherwise to maintain local governments according to foreign regulations and practically without interference by the Chinese government. Such concessions remain, in name, at least, Chinese territory. The largest and most important of them is Shanghai, where grants were made some years ago to the English, American and French. The first two have been combined into the Shanghai municipality, under a system of popular government with annual elections, where the rate-payers are voters and which in all functions closely resembles an independent republic. The theory that all nations are on an equal footing within the limits of the municipality is carried out to such an extreme that not only does the Chinese government maintain a post-office, but so also do all other countries whose citizens operate lines of mail steamers to and from the port. There are thus to be found, in addition to the Chinese post-office, regular establishments of the United States, Great Britain, Germany and Japan, while France has hers in the French concession, at all of which the stamps of the several countries are for sale.
Such in a few words is the political and physical status of that nation and that country on which the attention of the civilized world is focused, and whose development and regeneration will probably be the leading feature of the early years of the new century.
- This article will form part of a book entitled "An American Engineer in China," to be published shortly by Messrs. McClure, Phillips & Co.