Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/393

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319
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF CHINA

difficulty, every social and economic problem had been met and answered in some sort of way, and so the people lived year after year, doing things just as their fathers had done them. And now they impress one as very experienced, though old-fashioned; but not aged,—no, not at all.

On the contrary, face to face with the Chinese at home, one is overwhelmed by an impression of power,—actual power, potential power, power of the individual, power of the group, power well used, power misspent. The impression is almost stunning. You seem to be watching a community of ants, persistent, untiring, organized, only the ant-hill is a town, and the ants are men physically strong, gluttons for work, resourceful, adaptable, cheerful. Then multiply such ant-hills by thousands and you have China. For not merely is the Chinese the best worker in the world, but he also leads in organization. No Chinese stands alone; behind him is the family, the clan, the guild. He does not confront life naked and solitary, he is one of a group; that gives him confidence, and keeps him under control. It makes it both easier and more difficult to deal with him. Treat him unjustly, and you are fighting, not a man but a group. But if he wrongs you, you have a hold upon him, you can call him to account through his group.

And the power of organization smooths greatly the daily machinery of living in China. As I leaned over