Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/391

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317
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF CHINA

The estimate given me by the Chinese Consul-General at Singapore, a Kwangtung man, as to the proportion of the whole population speaking some form of Mandarin, was about three hundred millions out of a possible three hundred and sixty millions, and this agrees with other statements that I have seen. If this be so, then the enormous majority of the people have the bond of a common tongue. And more than that, all the educated—a small proportion, of course, although many more know a few symbols—have a common written language.

But as Confucius said thousands of years ago, "not all words are in books, nor all thoughts in words," and the traditions of nature worship, Taoism, Buddhism, of Confucius himself, have all put their stamp upon the Chinese, whether of the North or South, and the journeying coolie (and it must be remembered he is a great wanderer), no matter where he goes in China, will find himself among men who recognize the same obligations, cringe under the same superstitious fears, and strive toward the same goal of material well-being as himself. Fundamental differences do certainly exist; North and South China are divided in speech, and the people are unlike, physically and mentally, but I wonder if the separation is really deeper than that between the Northern and the Southern States in America to-day.

We talk of China as in decay, of the Chinese as