Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/332

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inferior to the Chinese; many of them live in mere hovels, and much of the land they cultivate belongs to the Chinese. Drink is, we believe, in most cases the cause of their poverty. The love of whisky, which they make for themselves, is a prevailing vice among them all. Festivals, marriages, funerals, and sacrificial observances in reference to the dead are all occasions for the reckless consumption of whisky.

They are much given to litigation, constantly going to law with each other. In the first instance, a case is brought before the local headman, but on these occasions it is difficult to satisfy both parties, and one of them takes the case before the district magistrate. It is amazing to think how much these people spend in legal proceedings, very often failing to get justice after all. But they think it due to themselves to fight a case out to the bitter end. Nearly all these lawsuits arise on account of their land or their women. They observe the marriage relation, but do not honour it as strictly as the Chinese. If a young Miao woman is dissatisfied with her husband she not infrequently disappears, and is subsequently found at her parents' home or living with some other man she prefers. Hence arise considerable ill-feeling and trouble of all sorts. We have assisted at the discussion of some of these matrimonial disputes and know how hard they are to settle.

The vice of opium-smoking is not so prevalent among them as it is among the Chinese, but many produce, and some consume the drug. During our ten years' experience among them we have observed the habit becoming more and more prevalent. Opium may not be the specific for all the ills that flesh is heir to, but it never fails to ease the pain, and among people who have no medical science, with opium always at hand, it is easy to foresee what the state of things will be in the course of time. This is not the place for a discussion of the Opium Question, or for a comparison of the relative evils of dram-drinking and opium-smoking, but we take this occasion solemnly to assert that we know of no vice so likely to destroy a person or a com-