to have a population of 680 per sq. m. The provinces of central China, in the basin of the Yangtsze-kiang—namely Sze-ch‛uen, Hu-peh, Ngan-hui, Kiang-su and Cheh-kiang—contain Population. probably a third of thes total population, the density of the people in these provinces being represented as from 490 to 310 per sq. m. Ho-nan, which belongs partly to the basin of the Hwang-ho and partly to that of the Yangtsze-kiang, as well as the S.E. coast provinces of Fu-kien and Kwang-tung, are also densely peopled, Ho-nan being credited with 520 persons per sq. m., Fu-kien with 490 and Kwang-tung with about 320.
The Chinese government prints from time to time in the Peking Gazette returns of the population made by the various provincial authorities. The method of numeration is to count the households, and from that to make a return of the total inhabitants of each province. There would be no great difficulty in obtaining fairly accurate returns if sufficient care were taken. It does not appear, however, that much care is taken. Mr E. H. Parker published in the Statistical Society’s Journal for March 1899 tables translated from Chinese records, giving the population from year to year between 1651 and 1860. These tables show a gradual rise, though with many fluctuations, up till 1851, when the total population is stated to be 432 millions. From that point it decreases till 1860, when it is put down at only 261 millions. The Chinese Imperial Customs put the total population of the empire in 1906 at 438,214,000 and that of China proper at 407,253,000. It has been held by several inquirers that these figures are gross over-estimates. Mr Rockhill, American minister at Peking (1905–1909), after careful inquiry concluded that the inhabitants of China proper did not exceed, in 1904, 270,000,000. Other competent authorities are inclined to accept the round figure of 400,000,000 as nearer the accurate number. Eleven cities were credited in 1908 with between 500,000 and 1,000,000 inhabitants each, and smaller cities are very numerous, but the population is predominantly rural. In addition to the Chinese the population includes a number of aboriginal races such as the Lolos (q.v.), the Miaotsze (q.v.), the Ikias of Kwei-chow and Kwang-si, the Hakka, found in the south-east provinces, and the Hoklos of Kwang-tung province. The Manchus resident in China are estimated to number 4,000,000. According to the Imperial Customs authorities, the number of foreigners resident in China in 1908 was 69,852. Of these 44,143 were Japanese, 9520 Russian, 9043 British, 3637 German, 3545 American, 3353 Portuguese, 2029 French, 554 Italian and 282 Belgian.
The Chinese are a colonizing race, and in Manchuria, Mongolia and Turkestan they have brought several districts under cultivation. In the regions where they settle they become the dominant race—thus southern Manchuria now differs little from a province of China proper. In Indo-China, the Malay Emigration. Peninsula and throughout the Far East Chinese are numerous as farmers, labourers and traders; in some places, such as Singapore, Chinese are among the principal merchants. This colonizing spirit is probably due more to the enterprise of the people than to the density of the population. There were Chinese settlements at places on the east coast of Africa before the 10th century A.D. Following the discovery of gold in California there was from 1850 onwards a large emigration of Chinese to that state and to other parts of America. But in 1879 Chinese exclusion acts were passed by the United States, an example followed by Australia, where Chinese immigration was also held to be a public danger. Canada also adopted the policy of excluding Chinese, but not before there had been a considerable immigration into British Columbia. Two factors, a racial and an economic, are at work to bring about these measures of exclusion. As indentured labourers Chinese have been employed in the West Indies, South America and other places (see Coolie).
In addition to several million Chinese settlers in Manchuria, and smaller numbers in Mongolia, Turkestan and Tibet, it was estimated in 1908 that there were over 9,000,000 Chinese resident beyond the empire. Of these 2,250,000 were in Formosa, which for long formed a part of the empire, and over 6,000,000 in neighbouring regions of Asia and in Pacific Islands. In the West Indies (chiefly Cuba) the number of Chinese was estimated at 100,000, in South America (Brazil, Peru and Chile) at 72,000, in the United States at 150,000, in Canada at 12,000, and in Australia and New Zealand at 35,000. There are comparatively few Chinese in Japan (if Formosa be excepted) and Korea. The number is given in 1908 as 17,000 in Japan and 11,000 in Korea.
The awakening of the East which has followed the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–5 has affected China also. It is too soon to say how far the influx of European ideas will be able to modify the immemorial customs and traditions of perhaps the most conservative people in the world; but the process has begun, and this fact makes it difficult to give a picture of Chinese habits and customs which shall be more than historical or provisional. Moreover, the difficulty of presenting a picture which shall be true of China as a whole is enhanced by the different characteristics observable in various regions of so vast a country. The Chinese themselves, until the material superiority of Western civilization forced them to a certain degree to conform to its standards, looked down from the height of their superior culture with contempt on the “Western barbarians.” Nor was their attitude wholly without justification. Their civilization was already old at a time when Britain and Germany were peopled by half-naked barbarians, and the philosophical and ethical principles on which it was based remain, to all appearances, as firmly rooted as ever. That these principles have, on the whole, helped to create a national type of a very high order few Europeans who know the Chinese well would deny. The Chinese are naturally reserved, earnest and good-natured; for the occasional outbursts of ferocious violence, notably against foreign settlements, are no index to the national character. There is a national proverb that “the men of the Four Seas are all brothers,” and even strangers can travel through the country without meeting with rudeness, much less outrage. If the Chinese character is inferior to the European, this inferiority lies in the fact that the Chinaman’s whole philosophy of life disinclines him to change or to energetic action. He is industrious; but his industry is normally along the lines marked out by authority and tradition. He is brave; but his courage does not naturally seek an outlet in war. The jealously exclusive empire, into which in the 19th century the nations of the West forced an entrance, was organized for peace; the arts of war had been all but forgotten, and soldiers were of all classes the most despised.
The whole social and political organization of the Chinese is based, in a far more real sense than in the West, on the family. The supreme duty is that of the child to its parent; on this the whole Chinese moral system is built up. Filial piety, according to the teaching of Confucius, is the very foundation of society; the nation itself is but one great family, and the authority of the government itself is but an extension of the paternal authority, to which all its children are bound to yield implicit obedience. The western idea of the liberty and dignity of the individual, as distinct from the community to which he belongs, is wholly alien to the Chinese mind. The political unit in China is not the individual but the family, and the father of the family is supposed to be responsible for the qualities and views of all his kin. He is rewarded for their virtues, punished for their faults; the deserts of a son ennoble the father and all his ancestors, and conversely his crimes disgrace them.
An outcome of this principle is the extraordinary importance in China of funeral rites, especially in the case of the father. The eldest son, now head of the family, or, failing him, his first-born or adopted son, fixes one of the three souls of the dead in the tablet commemorating his virtues, burns incense to his shade, and supplies him with paper money and paper representations of everything (clothes, servants, horses) that he may require in his journey to the other world. Mourning lasts for three years, during which the mourners wear white garments and abstain from meat, wine and public gatherings. Custom, too, dictates that wherever the Chinaman may die he must be brought back for burial to the place of his birth; one of the objects of the friendly societies is to provide funds to charter ships to transport home the bodies of those who have died abroad. Annually, in May, the white-clad people stream to the graves and mortuary temples with flowers, fruit and other offerings for the dead. Christian missionaries have found in this ancestor worship the most serious obstacle to the spread of a religion which teaches that the convert must, if need be, despise his father and his mother and follow Christ.
The same elaborate ceremonialism that characterizes the Chinese funeral customs is found also in their marriage rites and the rules of their social intercourse generally. Confucius is reported to have said that “all virtues have their source in etiquette,” and the due observance of the “ceremonial” (li) in the fulfilling of social duties is that which, in Chinese opinion, distinguishes civilized from barbarous peoples. The Board of Rites, one of the departments of the central government, exists for the purpose of giving decisions in matters of etiquette and ceremony. As to marriage, the rule that the individual counts for nothing obtains here in its fullest significance. The breeding of sons to carry on the ancestral cult is a matter of prime importance, and the marriage of a young man is arranged atthe earliest possible age. The bride and bridegroom have little voice
- See W. W. Rockhill, Inquiry into the Population of China (Washington, 1904).
- For a bibliography of works relating to the aboriginal races of China see Richard’s Comprehensive Geography of the Chinese Empire (1908 ed.), pp. 371-373.