Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/194

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182
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ulation in 1882, according to the best accepted authorities, of 380,- 000,000, or a fraction less than 300 people to the square mile. This average, large as it is, gives no adequate idea of the real density of the population in the nine important provinces of China. In 1812 the Chinese census gave 850, 705, and 671 inhabitants to the square mile in the three provinces of Kiangsu, Nganhwsu, and Chehkiang respectively. These averages have since increased largely, but there are no reliable data from which to give the present popula- tion per square mile in these or other provinces. The struggle for life under such conditions of overpopulation must necessarily be severe beyond description. But when we add to this the fluctua- tions of rainfall, involving frequently occurring periods of drought and flood, and consequent famine and misery, we begin to per- ceive the true causes of Chinese emigration.

The famine of 1878, growing out of the drought of the four preceding years, it is estimated, swept from nine and one half to thirteen millions of inhabitants out of existence. " At all epochs," says the Abbe" Hue, " and in the most flourishing and best-gov- erned countries, there always have been, and there always will be, poor ; but unquestionably there can be found in no other country such a depth of disastrous poverty as in the Chinese Empire. Not a year passes in which a terrific number of persons do not per- ish of famine in some part of China, and the number of those who live merely from day to day is incalculable. Let a drought, an inundation, or any accident whatever occur to injure the har- vest in a single province, and two thirds of the population are im- mediately reduced to a state of starvation. You see them form- ing themselves into numerous bands perfect armies of beggars and proceeding together, men, women, and children, to seek in the towns and villages for some little nourishment wherewith to sus- tain for a brief interval their miserable existence. Many fall down by the wayside and die before they can reach the place where they had hoped to find help. You see their bodies lying in the fields and at the road-side, and you pass without taking much notice of them, so familiar is the horrid spectacle."

" Calamities of this kind occur every year in some place or oth- er ; and those who have made any savings are able to get through the crisis and wait for better days ; but others, who are always in much greater numbers, have no choice but to expatriate them- selves or die of famine."

In 1855 Sir John Bowring, the "British Resident at Canton," in reply to inquiries from the Registrar-General in London, gave some interesting facts concerning the Chinese, which were subse- quently published by the Statistical Society. Speaking of the emigration from China, he said:

"The constant flow of emigration from China, contrasted with