The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey/The Province of Shantung

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

By Mr. C. F. Hogg.

Shantung ("East of the Hills," as Shansi is "West of the Hills") lies to the south-east of the metropolitan province, Chihli, and to the north of Kiangsu; a part of Honan divides these and completes the landward boundaries of the province. Shantung, as to a considerable portion of its area, is a promontory, the northern coast of which is the southern littoral of the Gulf of Chihli, or Pe-Chihli, as it is sometimes called, the added syllable "Pe" signifying "North."

The area of Shantung is stated at 53,762 square miles (English), or nearly twice that of Ireland, and considerably more than that of England. Its surface may be described, roughly, as flat as to one half, and hilly as to the other. The southern and eastern parts are hilly, and in places mountainous; the remainder is a plain. The rugged heights of the eastern extremity of the promontory present a forbidding appearance from the sea, from which the mountains, rich in granite, seem to rise sheer. Only towards this extremity are natural harbours to be found. Westward, north and south of the promontory, the shoal water makes access to the land difficult for boats of any burden. There are, however, a few places where native junks find shelter, ships of tonnage not greatly differing from those with which Columbus discovered America. The principal, if not the only exceptions, are Chefoo, where the Treaty of 1876 was signed by Sir Thomas Wade and Li Hung-chang; Weihaiwei, now in the occupation of the British, on the north coast; and Kiaochow, now in the hands of the Germans, on the south coast.

Since the year 1858 (1852 Hassenstein) the Yellow River (Hoang-ho, pronounced Whāng-ho) has found its way to the sea through the north-western plain of Shantung, returning to the old course it had deserted for a more southerly one fourteen hundred years before. The Yellow River is probably unique among the great rivers of the world, inasmuch as it is practically useless as a means of communication. The suspended matter, brought down from the loess plains of the north-west, which gives the stream its name, is deposited in its lower reaches, and thus the bed of the river has been gradually raised above the level of the surrounding country. Enormous embankments have been made to contain the immense volume of swiftly-flowing water, but these very frequently break down under the strain to which they are subjected in times of flood. The waters devastate the country, and, receding, leave behind a sandy silt that permanently deteriorates the soil. There are not any other rivers of importance in the province, but the Grand Canal, on its way from Canton to Peking, passes through the same section as does the Yellow River. The advent of the steamer and the lighthouse, by making coast traffic more practicable and more safe than formerly, have considerably reduced the importance of this artificial waterway, which is by far the longest in the world.

In the west-central part of the province, near the city of Taian Fu, to which it gives its name, stands Tai-shan (Mount Tai), one of the five sacred peaks of China whither the devout make pilgrimage.

The soil of Shantung has been exhausted through centuries of uninterrupted production without adequate compensation. Enriching material is poor in quality and insufficient in quantity; grazing is unknown, and the land never lies fallow, but produces a minimum of three crops in two years without intermission. The output consequently falls far short of what might be attained under better management, and the quality of the food-stuffs is deficient in nutritive power. Wheat, millet, maize, sorghum, sweet potatoes, pea-nuts, hemp, indigo, and a variety of bean and pea crops are regularly grown. Maize and sweet potatoes are not indigenous, and though of recent introduction, are already among the principal food products of the province. Rice, of a variety not requiring water in great abundance, is occasionally found, but the quantity is inconsiderable, though the quality is esteemed by the natives. Fruit is abundant, but from lack of cultivation—even the crudest form of pruning is not practised—the quality is usually poor. Apples, pears, apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums, cherries, grapes, and persimmons are plentiful.

Wood is not a feature of the landscape, though the villages that nestle in the valleys or stud the plains are usually surrounded by trees, spared for their shade. Willow, dwarf oak, stunted pine, ash, mulberry, walnut, catalpa are all to be found in one part or another of the province, but wood for building purposes and for coffin-making are, for the most part, imported from Manchuria.

Sericulture is an important allied industry. The worms are fed in the west on the leaf of the mulberry, in the east on that of the dwarf oak, the material made from the product of the latter finding its way into the market as pongee or Chefoo silk. The worm itself, after the cocoon has been used, is esteemed as a delicacy. There is an export trade in wheat straw braid also, but this, like all export trade in China involving anything except raw material, is apparently declining.

The mineral resources of Shantung are reputed to be extensive. The Germans, who obtained mining rights consequent upon their seizure of Kiaochow, have pushed their railway westward from that port to Tsinan Fu, the provincial capital, thus making accessible the coalfields of the central section.

The imports of Shantung are inconsiderable, and the produce of the soil not being sufficient for the support of its inhabitants, the balance is on the wrong side. The opening of a new source of wealth may redress the inequality to some extent. One of the greatest disabilities under which China, as a nation, labours, is that a large proportion of its population seldom get a meal sufficient in quality and nutritive power. Philanthropy may do a little to relieve the abnormal pressure consequent upon drought and floods, but, obviously, external interference can do nothing to meet a normal condition of insufficient aliment extending over a great extent of country and involving an enormous population. Dwellers on the coast supplement the meagre harvest of the soil by the more precarious harvest of the sea, but at high cost in human life. They go far out on the deep in their open boats, and when, as so often happens in the winter, the promise of the morning is belied by the sudden rise of a fierce north-western gale, they are driven before its icy breath, and are either lost in the open ocean or cast up on some neighbouring island, dead, or frost-maimed in every limb.

The struggle with the elements has made the Shantungese fishermen a hardy race of sailors, brave, patient, cheerful, and self-reliant, characteristics which are shared in some degree by their fellow-provincials, whose environment is not so well calculated to develop the more active physical virtues, but who are, nevertheless, stalwart, well-built men, steadfast, blunt, outspoken, persevering, not so easily roused as the men of the southern provinces, nor so easily pacified, but yet sharing other common characteristics of the race. Mentally the Shantungese are hard-headed and incredulous in their dealings with fellow-mortals, though they manifest the opposite of these qualities in their relations with the spirit world. They are more convinced idolaters than are to be found in most of the provinces of China, if we may judge from a certain readiness to argue in defence of the popular deities.

Among sailors the most popular divinity is a goddess, known as the "Holy Mother, Queen of Heaven," to whom vows are made and redeemed by those sailors or travellers who are about to face or have just escaped the perils of the deep.

In the cities and towns the Shantungese shows himself a shrewd business man, for the Chinese have a good claim to be known as a nation of shopkeepers. Markets are held in most large villages at intervals of live days, and are so arranged that salesmen can move from one to another without loss of time. These afford opportunities for the preacher of the Gospel also, for the men at least of the surrounding district attend these markets very frequently, and when work is slack in the fields the number present is often very large.

The Chinese divide men into four classes, according to their occupation—the literatus, the agriculturist, the artisan, and the merchant; and the order is ideal—the thinker, the producer, the worker, and the distributor. There are few families, however, that are not more or less interested in the land. In late May and early October the schools are closed, the streets and shops deserted; the workman leaves his bench, the fisherman his nets, and the scholar his books, that all may help to gather from the fields the precious harvest which is to keep the wolf of hunger from the door for another year.

Thou providest them with corn . . .
Thou crownest the year with Thy goodness.

Psalm lxv.

He left not Himself without witness . . .
Filling your hearts with food and gladness.

Acts xiv.

The population of Shantung varies in density, and the presence of so many hills and mountains lowers the average of inhabitants to the square mile. By actual count, in a district in the west of the province, not including any city in its area, as many as 1300 people were found to the square mile. In the neighbourhood of Weihaiwei, in the east, the British surveying party estimated a population of 500 to the square mile; throughout the province generally, the average population per square mile is given as 557.

Shantung has contributed to China the best-known names on her long roll of famous men, viz. Confucius and Mencius. These are the Latinised forms of the Chinese K'ung-fu-tz and Meng-fu-tz. K'ung and Meng are surnames in everyday use. Fu-tz is master. Confucius alone is the Sage, Mencius is recognised as of secondary rank, though Western students of philosophy seem inclined to reverse the native verdict. In 551-479 B.C., the era of Confucius, China was a conglomerate of feudal states owning allegiance, as actual as is usual under such circumstances, to the house of Chou. What is known of the teaching of the Sage has come to us in the form of table-talk, gathered up and put on record by the band of young men who followed him about from place to place receiving his doctrine. It is worthy of note, surely, that the classic literature of China is absolutely devoid of anything offensive to good taste. Its morality is of a high, if artificial, order, and what the Chinese are is in spite, not in consequence of, the teachings of antiquity. Confucius did not write books; the only writings with which he is credited are the Annals of Lu, his native state. He died, after a life full of vicissitudes, at the age of seventy-three. His lineal descendants are Dukes till the present day. Mencius (372-289 B.C.) was also a native of the ancient state of Lu, and he, like Confucius, was dead some hundreds of years before posterity admitted them to the honourable places they now hold in the national esteem.

Missionary Operations.— Shantung was early visited (1851-53) by Carl F. Gutzlaff, in the course of his extended coasting tours, undertaken in a native junk, for the purpose of distributing the Scriptures. In 1860 Mr. Holmes of the American Southern Baptist Mission settled in Chefoo with his family, a colleague, Mr. J. B. Hartwell, settling in Tengchow the following year. In 1861 Chefoo was threatened by one of the hosts of marauders called into existence by the success of the Taipings. Mr. Holmes, with Mr. Parker of the American Episcopal Mission, volunteered to intercede with the rebels, supposing them to be Taipings, and while engaged on this errand of mercy both were murdered. In the same year missionaries of the American Presbyterian Mission (North) began work in Tengchow, and in 1862 they established themselves in Chefoo. In 1866 the English Methodist New Connexion missionaries, reaching out from Tientsin, opened a station about 15 miles from Laoling, a departmental city in the north-west of the province. In 1873 the American Presbyterian Mission (North) began work in the provincial capital, Tsinan Fu, 300 miles south-west of Chefoo, and in 1874 the American Methodist Episcopal Mission rented premises in Taian Fu. The remaining stations of the American Presbyterian Mission were opened as follows:—Weihsien in 1882, Yichow Fu in 1891, Tsining Chow in 1892, and Kiaochow, after its occupation by the Germans, in 1898. The English Baptist Mission began work in Chefoo in the early 'sixties. In 1874 they removed to Tsingchow Fu, the ancestral home of the Emperors of the Ming dynasty, and in 1888 they added Chowping to the number of missionary centres in Shantung.

A unique feature of the work in Tsingchow Fu was the Museum, formed there by Mr. Whitewright. The contents and the building containing them would have reflected credit on any town of similar size in this country. This museum proved a great attraction, and many who came to satisfy curiosity heard within its walls the word of the truth of the Gospel. The Boxer outbreak of 1900, however, brought to destruction the result of the patient, painstaking labour of many years. Other Missions at work in Shantung are the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (1880), and the Gospel Baptist Mission (U.S.A. 1892). To these should be added the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, which commenced its work in Shantung in 1874. Eastward of Chefoo some unconnected workers are located in three stations—Weihaiwei, Shihtau, and Wenteng.

China Inland Mission.—Foreseeing the need of a place where, under approximately healthy conditions, members of the C.I.M. might recuperate, Mr. Hudson Taylor established a sanatorium in Chefoo in 1879, an institution which has grown with the Mission and has proved an inestimable boon to many who suffered in health under the conditions inevitable in Inland China. Schools for the children of missionaries soon became a pressing need, and to meet this the late Mr. W. L. Elliston began to teach in a room in the mission house beside the sanatorium. This work also has grown, and as, under certain conditions, the schools are open to children of parents other than missionaries, the Chefoo schools are now an important factor in European life in China. In recent years two commodious buildings have been erected, fulfilling modern scholastic conditions, for the accommodation of 180 boarders—100 boys and 80 girls—and another building, formerly used as a hotel, has been purchased and modified to meet the requirements of a mixed preparatory school for younger children.

The China Inland Mission also carries on medical mission work in Chefoo in two hospitals, one in the mission compound, the other, the Lily Douthwaite Memorial Hospital, primarily intended for the isolation of fever cases, built at a little distance. At Ninghai Chow, 18 miles to the south-east, Mission work, evangelistic and industrial, has been carried on by the China Inland Mission since 1886.

It was in Shantung that the Boxer movement was first turned against the foreigners in China, under the direction and fostering care of the notorious Yü-hsien, since executed by Imperial command not far from the door of the China Inland Mission House in Lanchow, Kansu province.

The name of a Shantung missionary, the Rev. S. P. Brook of the S.P.G., heads the long, sad list of those to whom it was granted to suffer the loss of life for Christ's, sake and the Gospel during the terrible Boxer uprising.