Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/392

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A WAYFARER IN CHINA

aged, and the country as exhausted. It is true the soil has been man-handled for ages, like the soil of India, but over great areas it constantly renews its fertility, and, anyway, most of China's resources are underground, untouched. The Government of last year was rotten to the core; it had outlived its day. But the Government was not the people, and the Chinese are neither worn out nor unsound.

I think it must be because everything seems finished in China that people talk about her decay. The whole thing impresses you as having been made and completed, after a fashion, a long time ago. Nowhere, save where the touch of the West has been felt, do you see things being tried for the first time. Everything has been done in China so many, many times, for so many centuries, and the results have spread abroad all over the empire; everywhere, in the remotest corners, you find the same ingeniously contrived commercial system, the same symmetrical and complicated social order. Being a very clever and resourceful people that has lived a long time, the Chinese have found out a great many things for themselves, and as there was no other clever and resourceful people at hand to incite them to other and better ways of doing some things, they went on as they were, neither spending their strength nor sharpening their wits in trying experiments. Indeed, experimenting stopped centuries ago; each natural