Popular Science Monthly/Volume 67/September 1905/China's Renaissance

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PSM V67 D392 Hong kong and its port.png

The harbor is one of the greatest ports of the world. The commercial gateway to South China and the chief distributing and trans-shipping center in the far east. 'Victoria' the chief city of Hong Kong, as seen from the harbor; showing how it is limited as well as protected by the mountainous character of the island.








SO long as constant forces and invariable conditions characterize a phenomenon, it is more or less easy to determine its course. But no matter how regular any known part of the representative curve of coordinates may be, extrapolation is always precarious and fraught with uncertainties. The careful observer is ever on the watch for so called 'critical points' times or places when or where entirely new and extraneous forces or hitherto latent internal potentialities begin to operate, and for a time at least, if not henceforth, to dominate the course of events. It is generally true that a comprehensive knowledge of such critical points is far more illuminating as to the real nature of the phenomenon in question than that of any other part of the curve, though of course it is essential to be familiar with the 'normal trend' as well. Many examples could be cited in the realm of physical science, but the one to which this series of papers attempts to call attention is of far more lively interest and pregnant with the destinies of the whole human race.

That China is facing a crisis amid the tramping of armies on her north and amid the increasing murmur of a discontented people within her own borders is clear to all close observers of the empire. The oldest, largest and most conservative nation of the world, with its home in the orient, is awakening under the impact of western ideas in trade, religion and education. Albeit that from the start there could be but one final issue, the progress of events well repays careful study.

This impact began along entirely commercial lines, then religious and hence educational, and finally because of the growth and future

PSM V67 D394 Cathedral and pagoda in guangzhou.png

A Contrast: Two Conspicuous Landmarks of Canton.

The French Cathderal, Canton. Built in 1860 on the site of the native Governor-General's residence, which was destroyed and the ground seized at the close of the Franco-Chinese war, 1856. The steel frame and the windows were brought from Paris.

The Five-story Pagoda on the Wall of Canton. Built some five hundred years ago as a huge watchtower to aid in keeping back the Tartars. Constructed of sawn blocks of red sandstone and hardwood columns and timberswell preserved to-day. Foreign troops were garrisoned here at the time of China's war with England and France.

possibilities of the first, it has become of wide political import. After noting briefly in this paper the period of beginnings and indicating the present-day aspects of this threefold renaissance, we shall in subsequent papers confine ourselves to a consideration of the educational factors.

The intercourse between China and the West began when the Portuguese sent their first trading vessel to her southern ports, of which Canton is the chief, in 1516, and till 1812 it was a purely commercial relation in which the power and civilization of Europe were represented for the most part by the East India Company, seeking only for the

PSM V67 D395 Typical street scene in victoria hongkong.png

A typical Street Scene in Victoria, Hongkong.

advantages of trade and persistently opposing all efforts designed to enlighten the people with whom they dealt. "The attitude of official China during this period was that of supercilious arrogance. China sought no intercourse with outsiders. If they sought trade with her, it was granted as a gracious favor by an officialdom which despised trade and traders too much to attend seriously to the details involved until they became matters threatening international rupture."

The event which began the new order of things was the 'opium war' between Great Britain and China, which, though little to the credit of a righteous nation, nevertheless has served as the origin of what must ultimately be of immeasurable benefit to the more benighted land. By the treaty of peace of 1812 British subjects were permitted to reside at certain important ports along the eastern coast and to trade with whom they pleased. This was soon extended to subjects of the United States and France, and since then the rights of foreigners in China have steadily increased. There are now over thirty 'treaty ports' the gateways of Western trade and influence.

American commerce with China began in 1784, the first ship leaving New York on Washington's birthday of that year, and taking fifteen months for the round trip. Our trade with China has been successful from the start, and is greater in importance and value than that of any other nation except Great Britain. With all the rapid developments of modern commerce and the pressure which every commercial nation is exerting in that quarter, our sales to China have quadrupled in the last decade. This rapid growth, together with other recent events in the far east, has warranted the U. S. Department of Commerce and Labor in publishing a quarto volume of some hundred and twenty pages on 'Commercial China in 1904.' Some of the introductory sentences of this monograph are significant in the present connection:

With an area of 4.000,000 square miles and a population of 400,000.000 people, its written history, covering thousands of years, shows that its doors have been firmly closed against foreign trade until within the memory of the present generation, while during the short time in which foreigners have been admitted to its commerce no period has been so marked with important commercial developments as that of the past three years. With hundreds of miles of railway now in operation and thousands of miles projected; with telegraphs connecting its capital with every province and even its far away dependencies and also with the outside world; with steam navigation and foreign vessels penetrating to the very head of its many navigable waterways; with new treaty ports opening upon the coast and far inland, and with foreigners permitted to travel for business or pleasure to the remotest corners of the Empire and carry with them their merchandise and the machinery with which it is manufactured, the changes in conditions are such as to attract unusual attention.

The expansion of the great powers of the world has culminated in the armed strife on China's northern border which is holding the attention of the civilized world. The issue in the east may be briefly stated, but it concerns hundreds of millions of the human race. 'Shall Japan, Siam, Korea and China be free to work out their own national destinies?'[1] Japan and Siam have already made great strides, but while they may seem to be beyond outside domination, their fate is still involved in no small measure with that of China. The issue in the orient is sharply drawn: 'independent national development for China, and continued progress of the other two free Asiatic states; or the subjection of China, and the endangering of all free nationality in Asia.'

The loss of free nationality in Asia would probably be a calamity to mankind. However justly the occidental may pride himself on his mastery of the art of living, however truly he may rejoice in his achievement throughout the whole reach of life, a sane modesty, taught him by his own science, should keep him from regarding western peoples as the

PSM V67 D397 Modern harbor of guangzhou.png

Modern Harbor of Canton, where foreign commerce with China first began.

(a) Looking from Honam across the Canton River towards the city. Customs station prominent near center of river front as shown. The tall buildings are pawnshops. White Cloud Mountain appears to the north. (b) In the rear of a departing river steamer bound for Hong Kong ninety miles away. Native sampans ('three-board') and ma lung tenas ('slipper'-boats) in great profusion and confusion. Note the water-carriers drawing the city's main water-supply. The only pure water obtainable, except rain water, is that brought in buckets from near the top of White Cloud Mountain. Deep artesian wells have not as yet been sunk. This in a city of two million people!
PSM V67 D398 Girls in the methodist mission classroom in zhenjiang.png
Class-room work at Girls' Academy, Methodist Mission, Chinkiang.
A significant indicator of China's true and inevitable renaissance, showing the advanced training afforded the long-neglected daughters of the race and eagerly sought by them.

whole race of man, or from looking with scorn upon entire divisions of the race whom his training has not fitted him to appreciate. "A proper reverence for humanity will not allow him to exalt his own position at the expense of the entire east, or to attempt crudely to force upon a whole continent external domination or those forms of civilization which are the product in some part of himself." From the higher level of human development, expansion and domination we may well feel that the world is destined to profit greatly by present events in the far east if they result in restoring to humanity the whole continent of Asia, free to join in making the history of the next hundred years, free to be itself and to supplement, with all of good there is manifest or dormant in it, the strength and goodness of the west.

The shortest road to a partial success in this endeavor to preserve free nationality in Asia is the development of China's material resources, which will not only enrich China and the world, but will help to arouse the people from their age-long sleep; and it may be that military development consequent upon this awakening will serve to maintain the empire's independence.

But China's independence should concern her friends in the west chiefly because such independence is essential to something far more important: true freedom for the Chinese people. "The dormant powers now awaking in this race and promising such a future for it in the commercial and political affairs of the world demand imperatively that there be set in motion, side by side with this material transformation, forces far more subtle that shall bring about a true renaissance of the nation by influencing profoundly the intellect and the soul of the race. Only so can the Chinese people be speedily restored to the modern world."

Without books, newspapers, the pulpit, political debate, general assemblies, etc., China's people have long been groping in the dark. An ignorant people can not be patriotic, nor can there be any steady progress in commerce, agriculture or manufactures among them. These are not due to any extent to differences in government. Democracy among an ignorant people is impossible, or at least dangerous. Although China's scholars of the old school have a superior education in some respects, it is after all too narrow to fit them for lives of service to their fellows. The literati oppose changes because they are ignorant and fear to tread a new path in the dark.

But the ignorance of the people in general or of the literati is not the most dangerous part of China's ignorance; it is the blatant and conceited ignorance of those young men who know little of the foundations of China's civilization and less of western institutions, who wish to tear down the old without knowing how to build up the new. Ignorant of what it means to govern so great a nation as China and to
PSM V67 D400 Girls in the school in zhenjiang.png
Chinese Girls in the School at Chin Kiang.

adjust her relations with the world, they wish to plunge at once into anarchy. They are too willing to move because they do not know China, while the literati are unwilling to move because they do not know the world. China needs men who know the institutions of both China and the west, who see clearly the foundations of all real civilizations, and hence can help their nation forward.

From the very beginning of foreign intercourse with China, men have not been wanting whose vision was clear and disinterested enough to lead them to devote untiring energy to dispel the darkness of China's ignorance and superstition. With the opening of the nineteenth century the missionary societies began trying to find an entrance for Christianity and modern civilization into the Celestial Empire, but they were obliged, on account of the repellent forces still operative, to content themselves with such work as could be carried on among the emigrant Chinese in the vicinity of the Malay Peninsula, so that during the first period of large commercial intercourse with China (1677-1841), there was no modern educational effort within the confines of the empire. Through the work of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge in China, founded in 1831, a beginning of western education within the borders of China was made by the printed page, while as yet the founding of schools within the country was impracticable.

Parallel with official China's arrogance with regard to trade was literary China's proud confidence in the axiom, "What Confucius teaches is true; what is contrary to his teaching is false; what he does not teach is unnecessary." "Confucius lived 2,400 years ago. Theirs was an assurance rooted in undisputed tradition, and fortified by the accumulated conservatism of two and a half millenniums of undisturbed conformity."[2] The problem was how to teach a nation that had no desire to learn; no desire, not from lack of interest in learning so much as because they believed themselves to have a monopoly of valuable knowledge.

Effective contact of western thought with this colossus of conceited ignorance began on the cession of Hongkong to the British in 1842, when the British government assumed responsibility for the education of the Chinese population of the island. Though numbering only 5,000 at the start, it has since multiplied to 270,000, and considerably more than half a million Chinese pass annually between Hongkong and various parts of the mainland, so that the importance of Hongkong as a distributing center of ideas as well as of material products must not be underestimated, though a frank observer is somewhat disappointed at the inadequate way in which the opportunities for higher education are being improved.
PSM V67 D402 Girls in the schoolyard in zhenjiang.png
Chinese Girls in the School of Chin Kiang.

Encouraged by the more liberal atmosphere created by the colonial government and by the contiguity to the great empire to be influenced, the Morrison school, started four years before in Macao, was removed to Hongkong in 1843, followed in 18-14 by the Anglo-Chinese College of Mallaca (founded also by Morrison in 1818). Many educational enterprises have since developed in Hongkong, though the results do not measure up to those in most of the schools in central and north China.

Educational work within the actual borders of China began when the treaty ports provided for in 1842 were opened up. Canton was the chief of these, and there as early as 1835 Dr. Peter Parker had opened the Canton Hospital, and this together with other benevolent medical work helped to pave the way for more extensive evangelistic and educational activities by creating a more friendly feeling towards foreigners among the Chinese. Though having its beginnings in the south, this educational work rapidly spread, and there is now scarcely a mission from Canton to Peking without its primary school, day school, intermediate school, night school or college. There are about 2,000 day schools with 35,400 pupils, and 170 higher schools with some 5,000 or more students. A few of these are girls' academies, in which there are courses of study equal to those of schools of a like grade in the United States, and pursued with equal credit. The oldest of these boarding schools for girls is that begun by the Wesleyan mission at Canton in 1861. Among the leading christian colleges, the one which has had the most graduates and the widest influence is the Shangtung College, founded at Tengchou (now at Weihsien) by the Presbyterians in 1864, under Dr. Calvin W. Mateer.

The work of this body of christian educators, small as it has been, has had an immeasurable effect. Awakened under the influence of this silent agency, and more rudely by the results of the China-Japan war and the events of 1899-1900, China's leaders have been made to see that the trouble lies in their faulty system and ideals of education; and have in nearly every case of educational reform called to their aid men hitherto prominent in educational missions. One of the most remarkable indications of the change that is coming over China is the spectacle of such eminent officials and scholars as Chang Chih Tung and Yuan Shih Kai urging upon the younger scholars the necessity of studying western sciences and becoming acquainted with the accomplishments of other nations. The government has begun to adopt measures to facilitate this course. In 1901, while the court was still in exile, a series of edicts was issued commanding a reorganization of the educational system of the empire, calling for changes in the examination system hitherto in vogue, for the establishment of an Imperial University at Peking and a large number of other high-grade institutions in all parts of the empire. Although the active response of the provincial officials has been somewhat tardy and inadequate in many instances, there are abundant signs that, without doubt, the renovation of the worn-out system of education is at hand. Just what the efforts of the government have been and the results they are producing will be noticed in more detail in a later paper; suffice it* now to point out that whereas at first it was a problem of how to educate a people who did not desire enlightenment because they fondly thought they already possessed all useful knowledge, the present problem is how to pass from old ways to radically new ones with the least friction among a people still in great part thoroughly conservative, but embracing numerous individuals thirsting for the newer learning. For realizing that the complete refutation of the age-long methods of the past is China herself, the most progressive officials and many of the young men are becoming sensible not only of the precarious position of their nation, but of their individual poverty and need of education.

During 1903 the new publications of the Society for the Diffusion of Christian and General Knowledge among the Chinese amounted to 11,434,600 pages, while The Review of the Times, a Chinese monthly, edited by Dr. Young J. Allen, published 54,400 copies. The corresponding figures for 1904 are 19,256,800 pages of new publications, 45,500 copies of The Review of the Times and 80,000 copies of The Chinese Weekly, edited by W. A. Cornaby. The total of reprints and new publications has grown from 25,353,880 pages in 1903 to 30,681,800 pages in 1904. Moreover, a conservative estimate puts the piracy of all the best books of this society by various native presses at five times the direct output of the society! During 1903 the Diffusion Society sold 35 complete sets and four supplements of the 'Encyclopædia Britannica' in English, while hundreds applied for it in Chinese. Several legitimate native publishing houses have recently sprung up, the chief of which, the Commercial Press of Shanghai, is literally sending forth volume after volume of new literature, mostly translations of works that have proved their usefulness among other nations. That the high officials are being influenced by the translations of the Diffusion Society is clear from the remarkable changes in the questions set throughout the empire for the literary examinations for the second degree, samples of which will be fully treated in a later article.

  1. See 'To Save the Chinese Empire,' by O. D. Wannamaker, The South China Collegian, Canton, China, July, 1904.
  2. See 'Western Education in South China,' O. F. Wisner. 'East of Asia,' Special Educational Number, Shanghai, June, 1904.