Reform In China
( Originally Published 1910 )
Reforms under the Empress Dowager—The Eclectic Commission Recent Reforms Naval Abortion—Merchant Marine Army Reform Mining Enterprises—Railways—The Telegraph—The Post Office —The Customs—Sir Robert Hart Educational Reform—The Tung-Wen College—The Imperial University—Diplomatic Intercourse—Progressive Viceroys—New Tests for Honours—Legal Reform—Newspapers—Social Reforms—Reading Rooms—Reform in Writing—Anti-foot-binding Society—The Streets.
"WHEN I returned from England," said Marquis Ito, "my my chief, the Prince of Chosin, asked me if I thought anything needed to be changed in Japan. I answered, `Everything.' " These words were addressed in my hearing, as I have elsewhere recorded, to three Chinese statesmen, of whom Li Hung Chang was one. The object of the speaker was to emphasise the importance of reform in China. He was unfortunate in the time of his visit—it was just after the coup d'état, in 1898. His hearers were men of light and leading, in sympathy with his views; but reform was on the ebb; a ruinous recoil was to follow; and nothing came of his suggestions.
The Emperor had indeed shown himself inclined to "change everything," but at that moment his power was paralyzed. What vicissitudes he has passed through since that date ! Should he come again to power, as now seems probable, may he not, sobered by years and prudent from experience, still carry into effect his grand scheme for the renovation of China. To him a golden dream, will it ever be a reality to his people?
Taught by the failure of a reaction on which she had staked her life and her throne, the Dowager became a convert to the policy, of progress. She had, in fact, outstripped her nephew. "Long may she live!" "Late may he rule us!" During her lifetime she could be counted on to carry forward the cause she had so ardently espoused. She grasped the reins with a firm hand; and her courage was such that she did not hesitate to drive the chariot of state over many a new and untried road. She knew she could rely on the support of her viceroys—men of her own appointment. She knew too that the spirit of reform was abroad in the land, and that the heart of the people was with her.
The best embodiment of this new spirit was the High Commission sent out in 1905 to study the institutions of civilized countries east and west, and to report on the adoption of such as they deemed advisable. The mere sending forth of such an embassy was enough to make her reign illustrious. The only analogous mission in the history of China, is that which was des-patched to India, in 66 A. D., in quest of a better faith, by Ming-ti, "The Luminous." The earlier embassy borrowed a few sparks to rekindle the altars of their country; the present embassy propose to introduce new elements in the way of political reform. Their first recommendation, if not their first report, reaches me while I write, and in itself is amply sufficient to prove that this High Commission is not a sham designed to dazzle or deceive. The Court Gazette, according to the China Times, gives the following on the subject.
" The five commissioners have sent in a joint memorial dealing with what they have seen in foreign countries during the last three months. They report that the wealthiest and strongest nations in the world to-day are governed by constitutional government. They mention the proclamation of constitutional government in Russia, and remark that China is the only great country that has not adopted that principle. As they have carefully studied the systems of England, the United States, Japan, etc., they earnestly request the Throne to issue a decree fixing on five years as the limit within which `China will adopt a constitutional form of government.'
"A rescript submits this recommendation to a council of state to advise on the action to be taken."
If that venerable body, consisting of old men who hold office for life, does not take umbrage at the prospect of another tribunal infringing on their domain, we shall have at least the promise of a parliament. And five years hence, if the congé d'elire goes forth, it will rend the veil of ages. It implies the conferment on the people of power hitherto unknown in their history. What a commotion will the ballot-box excite! How suddenly will it arouse the dormant intellect of a brainy race! But it is premature to speculate.
In 1868 the Mikado granted his subjects a charter of rights, the first article of which guarantees freedom of discussion, and engages that he will be guided by the will of the people. In China does not the coming of a parliament involve the previous issue of a Magna Charta?
It is little more than eight years since the restoration, as the return of the Court in January, 1902, may be termed. In this period, it is safe to assert that more sweeping reforms have been decreed in China than were ever enacted in a half-century by any other country, if one except Japan, whose example the Chinese profess to follow, and France, in the Revolution, of which Macaulay remarks that "they changed everything—from the rites of religion to the fashion of a shoe-buckle."
Reference will here be made to a few of the more important innovations or ameliorations which, taken together, made the reign of the Empress Dowager the most brilliant in the history of the Empire. The last eight years have been uncommonly prolific of reforms; but the tide began to turn after the peace of Peking in 1860. Since that date every step in the adoption of modern methods was taken during the reign or regency of that remarkable woman, which dated from 1861 to 1908.
As late as 1863 the Chinese Government did not possess a single fighting ship propelled by steam. Steamers belonging to Chinese merchants were sometimes employed to chase pirates; but they were not the property of the state. The first state-owned steamers, at least the first owned by the Central Government, was a flotilla of gunboats purchased that year in England by Mr. Lay, Inspector-General of Maritime Customs. Dissatisfied with the terms he had made with the commander, whom he had bound not to act on any orders but such as the Inspector should approve, the Government dismissed the Inspector and sold the ships.
In the next thirty years a sufficient naval force was raised to justify the appointment of an admiral; but in 1895 the whole fleet was destroyed by the Japanese, and Admiral Ting committed suicide. At present there is a squadron under each viceroy; but all combined would hardly form the nucleus of a navy. That the Government intend to create a navy may be inferred from the establishment of a Naval Board. In view of the naval exploits of Japan, and under the guidance of Japanese, they are certain to develop this feeble plant and to make it formidable to somebody—perhaps to themselves.
Their merchant marine is more respectable. With a fleet of fifty or more good ships the China Merchants' Steam Navigation Company are able by the aid of subsidies and special privileges to compete for a share in the coasting trade; but as yet they have no line trading to foreign ports.
In 1860 a wild horde with matchlocks, bows, and spears, the land army is now supplied in large part with repeating rifles, trained in Western drill, and dressed in uniform of the Western type. The manoeuvres that took place near Peking in 1905 made a gala day for the Imperial Court, which expressed itself as more than satisfied with the splendour of the spectacle. The contingent belonging to this province is 40,000, and the total thus drilled and armed is not less than five times that number. In 1907 the troops of five provinces met in Honan. Thanks to railways, something like concentration is coming within the range of possibility. Not deficient in courage, what these raw battalions require to make them effective is confidence in themselves and in their commanders. Lacking in the lively patriotism that makes heroes of the Japanese, these fine big fellows are not machines, but animals. To the mistaken efforts recently made to instil that sentiment at the expense of the foreigner, I shall refer in another chapter. A less objectionable phase of the sentiment is provincialism, which makes it easy for an invader to employ the troops of one province to conquer another. In history these provinces appear as kingdoms, and their mutual wars form the staple subject. What feeling of unity can exist so long as the people are divided by a babel of dialects? More than once have Tartars employed Chinese to conquer China; and in 1900 a fine regiment from Wei-hai-wei helped the British to storm Peking. It may be added they repaid themselves by treating the inhabitants as conquered foes. Everywhere they were conspicuous for acts of lawless violence.
Three great arsenals, not to speak of minor establishments, are kept busy turning out artillery and small arms for the national army, and the Board of Army Reform has the supervision of those forces, with the duty of making them not provincial, but national. Efforts of this kind, however, are no proof of a reform spirit. Are not the same to be seen all the way from Afghanistan to Dahomey? To be weak is to be miser-able "; and the Chinese are right in making military reorganisation the starting-point of a new policy. Yet the mere proposal of a parliament is a better indication of the spirit of reform than all these armaments.
In the mind of China, wealth is the correlative of strength. The two ideas are combined in the word Fuchiang, which expresses national prosperity. Hence the treasures hidden in the earth could not be neglected, when they had given up the follies of geomancy and saw foreigners prospecting and applying for concessions to work mines. At first such applications were met by a puerile quibble as to the effect of boring on the "pulse of the Dragon"—in their eyes not the guardian of a precious deposit, but the personification of "good luck." To find lucky locations, and to decide what might help or harm, were the functions of a learned body of professors of Fungshui, a false science which held the people in bondage and kept the mines sealed up until our own day. Gradually the Chinese are shaking off the incubus and, reckless of the Dragon, are forming companies for the exploitation of all sorts of minerals. The Government has framed elaborate regulations limiting the shares of foreigners, and encouraging their own people to engage in mining enterprises.
"Give up your Fungshui;
says a verse of Viceroy Chang.
A similar change has taken place in sentiment as regards railways. At first dreaded as an instrument of foreign aggression, they are now understood to be the best of auxiliaries for national defence. It has further dawned on the mind of a grasping mandarinate that they may be utilised as a source of revenue. If stocks pay well, why should not the Government hold them? "Your railways pay 10 per cent.—that's the sort of railway we want in China," said one of the commissioners at a banquet in England.
It would not be strange if the nationalisation of railways decided on this spring in Japan should lead to a similar movement in China. In a country like America, with 300,000 miles of track, the purchase would be ultra vires in more senses than one, but with only z per cent. of that mileage, the purchase would not be difficult, though it might not be so easy to secure an honest administration.
Trains from Peking now reach Hankow (600 miles) in thirty-six hours. When the grand trunk is completed, through trains from the capital will reach Canton in three days. Set this over against the three months' sea voyage of former times (a voyage made only once a year), or against the ten days now required for the trip by steamer! What a potent factor is the railroad in the progress of a great country!
The new enterprises in this field would be burden-some to enumerate. Shanghai is to be connected by rail with Tientsin (which means Peking), and with Nanking and Suchow. Lines to penetrate the western provinces are already mapped out; and even in Mongolia it is proposed to supersede the camel by the iron horse on the caravan route to Russia. "Alas! the age of golden leisure is gone—the iron age of hurryskurry is upon us!" This is the lament of old slow-going China.
When China purchased the Shanghai-Woosung rail-way in 1876, she was thought to be going ahead. What did we think when she tore up the track and dumped it in the river? An æon seems to have passed since that day of darkness.
The advent of railways has been slow in comparison with the telegraph. The provinces are covered with wires. Governors and captains consult with each other by wire, in preference to a tardy exchange of written correspondence. The people, too, appreciate the advantage of communicating by a flash with distant members of their families, and of settling questions of business at remote places without stirring from their own doors. To have their thunder god bottled up and brought down to be their courier was to them the wonder of wonders; yet they have now become so accustomed to this startling innovation, that they cease to marvel.
The wireless telegraph is also at work—a little manual, translated by a native Christian, tells people how to use it.
Over forty years ago, when I exhibited the Morse system to the astonished dignitaries of Peking, those old men, though heads of departments, chuckled like children when, touching a button, they heard a bell ring; or when wrapping a wire round their bodies, they saw the lightning leap from point to point. "It's wonderful," they exclaimed, "but we can't use it in our country. The people would steal the wires." Electric bells are now common appliances in the houses of Chinese who live in foreign settlements. Electric trolleys are soon to be running at Shanghai and Tientsin. Telephones, both private and public, are a convenience much appreciated. Accustomed as the Chinese are to the instantaneous transmission of thought and speech, they have yet to see the telodyne —electricity as a transmitter of force. But will they not see it when the trolleys run? The advent of electric power will mark an epoch.
China's weakness is not due wholly to backwardness in the arts and sciences. It is to be equally ascribed to defective connection of parts and to a lack of communication between places. Hence a sense of solidarity is wanting, and instead there is a predominance of local over national interests. For this disease the remedy is forthcoming—rail and wire are rapidly welding the disjointed members of the Empire into a solid unity. The post office contributes to the same result.
A postal system China has long possessed: mounted couriers for official despatches, and foot messengers for private parties, the Government providing the former, and merchant companies the latter. The modernised post office, now operating in every province, provides for both. To most of the large towns the mails are carried by steamboat or railroad--a marvellous gain in time, compared with horse or foot. The old method was slow and uncertain; the new is safe and expeditious.
That the people appreciate the change is shown by the following figures: In 1904 stamps to the amount of $400,000 (Mexican) were sold; in 1905 the sale rose to $600,000-an advance of 50 per cent. in one year. What may we not expect when the women learn to read, and when education becomes more general among men?
Sir Robert Hart, from whom I had this statement, is the father of China's postal system. Overcoming opposition with patience and prudence, he has given the post office a thorough organisation and has secured for it the confidence of princes and people. Already does the Government look to it as a prospective source of revenue.
To the maritime customs service, Sir Robert has been a foster-father. Provided for by treaty, it was in operation before he took charge, in 1863; but to him belongs the honour of having nursed the infant up to vigorous maturity by the unwearied exertions of nearly half a century. While the post office is a new development, the maritime customs have long been looked upon as the most reliable branch of the revenue service. China's debts to foreign countries, whether for loans or indemnities, are invariably paid from the customs revenue. The Government, though disinclined to have such large concerns administered by foreign agents, is reconciled to the arrangement in the case of the customs by finding it a source of growing income. The receipts for 1905 amounted to 35, 111,000 taels = L5,281,000. In volume of trade this shows a gain of 11 1/2 per cent, on 1904; but, owing to a favouring gale from the happy isles of high finance, in sterling value the gain is actually 17 per cent.
To a thoughtful mind, native or foreign, the maritime customs are not to be estimated by a money standard. They rank high among the agencies working for the renovation of China. They furnish an object-lesson in official integrity, showing how men brought up under the influence of Christian morals can collect large sums and pay them over without a particle sticking to their fingers. While the local commissioners have carried liberal ideas into mandarin circles all along the seacoast and up the great rivers into the interior, the Inspector-General (the " I. G." as Sir Robert is usually called) has been the zealous advocate of every step in the way of reform at head-quarters.
Another man in his position might have been con-tented to be a mere fiscal agent, but Sir Robert Hart's fertile brain has been unceasingly active for nearly half a century in devising schemes for the good of China. All the honours and wealth that China has heaped on her trusted adviser are far from being sufficient to cancel her obligations. It was he who prompted a timid, groping government to take the first steps in the way of diplomatic intercourse. It was he who led them to raise their school of interpreters to the rank of a diplomatic college. He it was who made peace in the war with France; and in 1900, after the flight of the Court, he it was who acted as intermediary between the foreign powers and Prince Ching. To some of these notable services I shall refer elsewhere. I speak of them here for the purpose of emphasising my disapproval of an intrigue designed to oust Sir Robert and to overturn the lofty structure which he has made into a light-house for China.
In May, 1906, two ministers were appointed by the Throne to take charge of the entire customs service, with plenary powers to reform or modify ad libitum. Sir Robert was not consulted, nor was he mentioned in the decree. He was not dismissed, but was virtually superseded. Britain, America, and other powers took alarm for the safety of interests involved, and united in a protest. The Government explained that it was merely substituting one tribunal for another, creating a dual headship for the customs service instead of leaving it under the Board of Foreign Affairs, a body already overburdened with responsibilities. They gave a solemn promise that while Sir Robert Hart remained there should be no change in his status or powers; and so the matter stands. The protest saved the situation for the present. Explanation and promise were accepted; but the Government (or rather the two men who got themselves appointed to a fat office) remain under the reproach of discourtesy and ingratitude. The two men are Tieliang, a Manchu, and Tang Shao-yi, a Chinese. The latter, I am told on good authority, is to have £30,000 per annum. The other will not have less. This enormous salary is paid to secure honesty.
In China every official has his salary paid in two parts: one called the "regular stipend," the other, a "solatium to encourage honesty." The former is counted by hundreds of taels; the latter, by thousands, especially where there is a temptation to peculate. What a rottenness at the core is here betrayed!
A new development worthy of all praise is the opening, by imperial command, of a school for the training of officials for the customs service. It is a measure which Sir Robert Hart with all his public spirit, never ventured to recommend, because it implies the speedy replacement of the foreign staff by trained natives.
Filling the sky with a glow of hope not unlike the approach of sunshine after an arctic winter, the re-form in the field of education throws all others into the shade. By all parties is recognised its supremacy. Its beginning was feeble and unwelcome, implying on the part of China nothing but a few drops of oil to relieve the friction at a few points of contact with the outside world.
The new treaties found China unprovided with interpreters capable of translating documents in foreign languages. Foreign nations agreed to accompany their despatches with a Chinese version, until a competent staff of interpreters should be provided. With a view to meeting this initial want, a school was opened in 1862, in connection with the Foreign Office, and placed under the direction of the Inspector-General of Maritime Customs, by whom I was recommended for the presidency. Professors of English, French, and Russian were engaged; and later on German took a place alongside of the three leading languages of the Western world.
At first no science was taught or expected, but gradually we succeeded in obtaining the consent of the Chinese ministers to enlarge our faculty so as to include chairs of astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, and physics. International law was taught by the president; and by him also the Chinese were supplied with their first text-books on the law of nations. What use had they for books on that subject, so long as they held no intercourse on equal terms with foreign countries? The students trained in that school of diplomacy had to shiver in the cold for many a year before the Government recognised their merits and re-warded them with official appointments. The minister recently returned from London, the ministers now in Germany and japan, and a minister formerly in France, not to speak of secretaries of legation and consuls, were all graduates of our earlier classes,
In 1898 the young Emperor, taught by defeat at the hands of the Japanese, resolved on a thorough reform in the system of national education. It would never do to confine the knowledge of Western science to a handful of interpreters and attachés. The highest scholars of the Empire must be allowed access to the fountain of national strength. A university was created with a capital of five million taels, and the writer was made president by an imperial decree which conferred on him the highest but one of the nine grades of the mandarinate.
Two or three hundred students were enrolled, among whom were bachelors, masters, and doctors of the civil service examinations. It was launched with a favouring breeze; but the wind changed with the coup d'état of the Empress Dowager, and two years later the university went down in the Boxer cyclone. A professor, a tutor, and a student lost their lives. How the cause of educational reform in rose stronger after the storm, I relate in a special chapter. It is a far cry from a university for the élite to that elaborate system of national education which is destined to plant its schools in every town and hamlet in the Empire. The new education was in fact still regarded with suspicion by the honour men of the old system. They looked on it, as they did on the railway, as a source of danger, a perilous experiment.
As yet the intercourse was one-sided: envoys came; but none were sent. Embassies were no novelty; but they had always moved on an inclined plane, either coming up laden with tribute, or going down bearing commands. Where there was no tribute and no command, why send them? Why send to the very people who had robbed China of her supremacy! It was a bitter pill, and she long refused to swallow it. Hart gilded the dose and she took it. Obtaining leave to go home to get married, he proposed that he should be accompanied by his teacher, Pinchun, a learned Manchu, as unofficial envoy—with the agreeable duty to see and report. It was a travelling commission, not like that of 1905-06, to seek light, but to ascertain whether the representative of a power so humbled and insulted would be treated with common decency.
The old pundit was a poet. All Chinese pundits are poets; but Pinchun had real gifts, and the flow of champagne kindled his inspiration. Everywhere wined and dined, though accredited to no court, he was in raptures at the magnificence of the nations of the West. He lauded their wealth, culture, and scenery in faultless verse; and if he indulged in satire, it was not for the public eye. He was attended by several of our students, to whom the travelling commission was an education. They were destined, after long waiting as I have said, to revisit the Western world, clothed with higher powers.
The impression made on both sides was favourable, and the way was prepared for a genuine embassy. The United States minister, Anson Burlingame, a man of keen penetration and broad sympathies, had made himself exceedingly acceptable to the Foreign Office at Peking. When he was taking leave to re-turn home, in 1867, the Chinese ministers begged his good offices with the United States Government and with other governments as occasion might offer—" In short, you will be our ambassador," they said, with hearty good-will.
Burlingame, who grasped the possibilities of the situation, called at the Customs on his way to the Legation. Hart seized the psychological moment, and, hastening to the Yamên, induced the ministers to turn a pleasantry into a reality. The Dowagers (for there were two) assented to the proposal of Prince Kung, to invest Burlingame with a roving commission to all the Treaty powers, and to associate with him a Manchu and a Chinese with the rank of minister. An "oecumenical embassy" was the result. Some of our students were again attached to the suite ; reciprocal intercourse had begun; and Burlingame has the glory of initiating it.
In the work of reform three viceroys stand pre-eminent, viz., Li Hung Chang, Yuen Shi Kai and Chang Chitung. Li, besides organising an army and a navy (both demolished by the Japanese in 1895), founded a university at Tienstin, and placed Dr. Tenney at the head of it. Yuen, coming to the same viceroyalty with the lesson of the Boxer War before his eyes, has made the army and education objects of special care. In the latter field he had had the able assistance of Dr. Tenney, and succeeded in making the schools of the province of Chihli an example for the Empire.
Viceroy Chang has the distinction of being the first man (with the exception of Kang Yuwei) to start the emperor on the path of reform. Holding that, to be rich, China must have the industrial arts of the West, and to be strong she must have the sciences of the West, he has taken the lead in advocating and introducing both. Having been called, after the suspension of the Imperial University, to assist this enlightened satrap in his great enterprise, I cannot better illustrate the progress of reform than by devoting a separate chapter to him and to my observations during three years in Central China.
Tests of scholarship and qualifications for office have undergone a complete change. The regulation essay, for centuries supreme in the examinations for the civil service, is abolished; and more solid acquirements have taken its place. It takes time to adjust such an ancient system to new conditions. That this will be accomplished is sufficiently indicated by the fact that in May, 1906, degrees answering to A. M. and Ph. D. were conferred on quite a number of students who had completed their studies at universities in foreign countries. As a result there is certain to be a rush of students to Europe and America, the fountain-heads of science. Forty young men selected by Viceroy Yuen from the advanced classes of his schools were in 1906 despatched under the superintendence of Dr. Tenney to pursue professional studies in the United States. That promising mission was partly due to the relaxation of the rigour of the exclusion laws.
The Chinese assessor of the Mixed Court in Shanghai was dismissed the same year because he had condemned criminals to be beaten with rods—a favourite punishment, in which there is a way to alleviate the blows. Slicing, branding, and other horrible punishments with torture to extort confessions have been forbidden by imperial decree. Conscious of the con-tempt excited by such barbarities, and desirous of removing an obstacle to admission to the comity of nations, the Government has undertaken to revise its penal code. Wu-ting-fang, so well known as minister at Washington, has borne a chief part in this honourable task. The code is not yet published; but magistrates are required to act on its general principles. When completed it will no doubt provide for a jury, a thing hitherto unknown in China. The commissioners on legal reform have already sent up a memorial explaining the functions of a jury; and, to render its adoption palatable, they declare that it is an ancient institution, having been in use in China three thousand years ago. They leave the Throne to infer that Westerners borrowed it from China.
The fact is that each magistrate is a petty tyrant, embodying in his person the functions of local governor, judge, and jury, though there are limits to his discretion and room for appeal or complaint. It is to be hoped that lawyers and legal education will find a place in the administration of justice.
Formerly clinging to a foreign flagstaff, the editor of a Chinese journal cautiously hinted the need for some kinds of reform. Within this lustrum mirabile the daily press has taken the Empire by storm. Some twenty or more journals have sprung up under the shadow of the throne, and they are not gagged. They go to the length of their tether in discussing affairs of state—notwithstanding cautionary hints. Refraining from open attack, they indulge in covert criticism of the Government and its agents.
Social reforms open to ambitious editors a wide field and make amends for exclusion from the political arena. One of the most influential recently deplored the want of vitality in the old religions of the country, and, regarding their reformation as hopeless, openly advocated the adoption of Christianity. To be independent of the foreigner it must, he said, be made a state church, with one of the princes for a figure-head, if not for pilot.
Another deals with the subject of marriage. Many improvements, he says, are to be made in the legal status of woman. The total abolition of polygamy might be premature; but that is to be kept in view. In another issue he expresses a regret that the Western usage of personal courtship cannot safely be introduced. Those who are to be companions for life cannot as yet be allowed to see each other, as disorders might result from excess of freedom. Such liberty in social relations is impracticable "except in a highly refined and well-ordered state of society." The same or another writer proposes, by way of enlarging woman's world, that she shall not be confined to the house, but be allowed to circulate as freely as Western women but she must hide her charms behind a veil.
Reporting an altercation between a policeman and the driver of one of Prince Ching's carts, who insisted on driving on tracks forbidden to common people, an editor suggests with mild sarcasm that a notice be posted in such cases stating that only "noblemen's carts are allowed to pass." Do not these specimens show a laudable attempt to simulate a free press? Free it is by sufferance, though not by law.
Reading-rooms are a new institution full of promise. They are not libraries, but places for reading and expounding newspapers for the benefit of those who are unable to read for themselves. Numerous rooms may be seen at the street corners, where men are re-citing the contents of a paper to an eager crowd. They have the air of wayside chapels; and this mode of enlightening the ignorant was confessedly borrowed from the missionary. How urgent the need, where among the men only one in twenty can read; and among women not one in a hundred!
Reform in writing is a genuine novelty, Chinese writing being a development of hieroglyphics, in which the sound is no index to the sense, and in which each pictorial form must be separately made familiar to the eye. Dr. Medhurst wittily calls it " an occulage, not a language." Without the introduction of alphabetic writing, the art of reading can never become general. To meet this want a new alphabet of fifty letters has been invented, and a society organised to push the system, so that the common people, also women, may soon be able to read the papers for themselves. The author of the system is Wang Chao, mentioned above as having given occasion for the coup d'état by which the Dowager Empress was re-stored to power in 1898.
I close this formidable list of reforms with a few words on a society for the abolition of a usage which makes Chinese women the laughing-stock of the world, namely, the binding of their feet. With the minds of her daughters cramped by ignorance, and their feet crippled by the tyranny of an absurd fashion, China suffers an immense loss, social and economic. Happily there are now indications that the proposed enfranchisement will meet with general favour. Lately I heard mandarins of high rank advocate this cause in the hearing of a large concourse at Shanghai. They have given a pledge that there shall be no more foot-binding in their families; and the Dowager Empress came to the support of the cause with a hortatory edict. As in this matter she dared not prohibit, she was limited to persuasion and example. Tartar women have their powers of locomotion unimpaired. Viceroy Chang denounced the fashion as tending to sap the vigour of China's mothers; and he is reported to have suggested a tax on small feet—in inverse proportion to their size, of course. The leader in this movement, which bids fair to become national, is Mrs. Archibald Little.
The streets are patrolled by a well-dressed and well-armed police force, in strong contrast with the ragged, negligent watchmen of yore. The Chinese, it seems, are in earnest about mending their ways. Their streets, in Peking and other cities, are under-going thorough repair—so that broughams and rickshaws are beginning to take the place of carts and palanquins. A foreign style of building is winning favour; and the adoption of foreign dress is talked of. When these changes come, what will be left of this queer antique?