Twentieth Century Impressions of Hongkong, Shanghai, and other Treaty Ports of China/Ceremonies/Charities
The Chinese have a wide field for the exercise of their charitable instincts. Not only is almsgiving enjoined by their religions, but the construction and repair of roads and bridges for the convenience of travellers, the building of hospitals, and the maintenance of homes for the aged or foundlings, are all regarded as meritorious works, securing to those who perform them, or contribute towards their performance, reward hereafter. For poor Chinese coffins are provided, and their funeral expenses are often borne by their more fortunate countrymen. Beggars are frequently assembled by the well-to-do and given a few cash each ; quilted garments are distributed in the winter time ; and a sort of rice gruel, known as congee, is freely dispensed to the needy. In the summer months people are accustomed to place supplies of tea outside their doors, or in places accessible to passers-by, for the refreshment of the thirsty. Almost every hamlet has its school, maintained at the common charge, where education is given for a nominal fee of a dollar or two a year to those who can afford to pay the sum, and free to those who are indigent. Buddhistic influence is traceable in many of these customs, and especially in the practice of purchasing birds and animals for the purpose of restoring them to liberty.