Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

expressed in anything but court-language, this was the first I gave her majesty to look at, she turned the first few pages slowly and then more and more quickly, and finally hurled it from her saying, "It was impossible, I mustn't touch it." Then she looked at Giles' book for beginners in Chinese and though this did not meet her approval she decided I might study that, but said the young Empress would teach me to "speak properly." My efforts were a source of amusement to the princesses and even the eunuchs, and the ladies did not hesitate to burst into merry peals of laughter at my mistakes; all but the graciously-sweet young Empress. Even the Empress Dowager would sometimes share the general hilarity, for her sense of humor was strong, but she would soon check herself and the others by saying Chinese was so difficult that very few of the princesses spoke it properly as I would see when I learned more!

So simple is the construction of spoken Chinese I soon learned enough to understand what was said to me. When the Empress Dowager spoke it was so slowly and clearly her words being supplemented by eloquent gesture, I soon understood all she said. I have already alluded to her great love of flowers and this was not confined only to flowers, but to plants and the bettering of certain species. This was the same with her dogs, she was very careful about their breeding. When her eyes were stronger she had embroidered a great deal, she drew and painted and was a famous writer of the great characters. She did not disdain to interest herself in humbler duties, and she overlooked the smallest details of the imperial household. One day when she expected to receive some ladies of the legation and the throne room had been arranged for their reception, and her majesty and the princesses were already assembled, she, like some careful New England housewife, looking around to see that all was "proper" noticed some dust upon a piece of furniture and promptly ordered a silken cloth brought to her, with which she herself proceeded to dust, not only that piece but several others saying, "the best way to have a thing done well is to do it oneself!" No one despises labor in China. There it has a dignity of its own.

Agriculture, one of the most important features of Chinese industry, has it own temple where the Emperor himself officiates. In the early spring of every year his celestial majesty himself plowed the first furrow of the year! It was one of the great court ceremonies! The plough drawn by an ox kept in the palace grounds whose toil of the year was confined to this imperial furrow, with the Emperor dressed in his robes of state between the handles of the plough guiding it with all seriousness and seeing that the furrow was straight and properly deep. The imperial princes and highest officials of China clothed in their official robes following his majesty's footsteps! And I can say I never saw the Emperor more interested than the day I accidentally saw this ceremony, which takes place in the palace park the day before the public ploughing in the grounds of the temple of agriculture! This ploughing by the Emperor was to show the agriculturists of China the nobility of their work, great enough for the Son of Heaven himself to perform! The manufacture of silk, the rearing of the cocoons is another great industry of China, and the title of Guardian of the Cocoons was a coveted honor, bestowed only upon the princesses of the imperial clan. Singing and dancing which we indulge in for our own amusement is relegated in China, to a class who do nothing else. The Empress Dowager having received a new grand piano while I was in the palace had me and the Misses Yu Keng try it for her one day, and when I played a waltz she asked to see it danced. When the Misses Yu Keng danced it and she found it was a regular practice among the Europeans, to do their own dancing she wondered why they couldn't get dancers to do it for them!

Music is a part of most of the great ceremonies in China, and they enjoy the singing of actresses and musicians, but well bred people consider it undignified to sing, however, musical they may be. One glorious afternoon when we were out in the barge, drawn by the two boats of rowers, over the lake, all abloom with gorgeous pink lotus, past beautiful bridges and the quaintly carved marble quays, the radiance of the setting sun glinting with added gold the upturned yellow roofs on the shore, the Empress Dowager

sat drinking in the beauty of the scene; and then, to the soft accompaniment of the rippling water and the swish of the oars against the lotus leaves, she began to sing, in a low, but perfectly placed voice, a soft minor song so charmingly and with such artistic grace, I could not help murmuring "beautiful" in Chinese, she started and said, "I forgot myself. It is most unbecoming for an Empress of China to sing," and placing her hand upon my hair with one of her graceful half-caressing gestures she continued. "Never mention my singing to any one, if the Shanghai papers knew it there would be a pretty row."

Eight months later we were again at the summer palace. One lovely evening in the late spring, again floating in the imperial barge on the lake-I was sitting near the empress Dowager as before, and I dared ask her to sing again, and she did! the same sweet minor song, like some sweet crooning lullaby! It was charming.

The too generally accepted idea that the Empress Dowager was of mean origin is now, thanks to the larger knowledge we have of things Chinese, quite exploded. She was descended in direct line from Nur-ha-chu the great warrior prince, whose splendid strategic feats led to the conquest of China and the founding of the Manchu dynasty. There were three other Empresses Dowager in her family. Her cousin was the first wife of Hsien-Fong of whom the late Empress Dowager became the fifth wife. She belonged to the powerful White banner clan.

When I was in the palace I heard of an old Manchu prophecy dating from the conquest of China, that when "one of the White banner-clan attained to imperial power in China it would be the end dynasty." Strange to say the late Empress Dowager, the first of the White banner to wield imperial power, was virtually the last of the dynasty! I have often thought of this prophecy during the past year.

As I have said before, the Empress Dowager seemed to me really a Chinese patriot, she loved China as did few of the Chinese themselves, with a real devotion. I used to say when I was in the palace, before Chinese patriotism had been fully awakened, that she was the only Chinese patriot

I had met! She believed in China, she cherished the noble deeds of the rulers of all its other dynasties, she gloried in China's accomplishments in the past, she longed to bring back its brilliant epochs. She was profoundly discouraged at her powerlessness to check the inroads of the foreigners, at her inability to infuse new life and greater effort into the Manchus. She hoped by inaugurating a representative government to increase China's power, to put new life into the governing element, to check the gangrene of official greed which was sapping the life of the government.

Though she would have fought to the last to retain her power and assure the supremacy of her clan for the future, I believe, had she lived to see this pacific revolution, the noble generosity of the republicans to the imperial family, the more than justice they have shown the Manchus in general; if she could have felt, as I firmly believe her broad mind and real patriotism was capable of feeling, that the republic, brought about by this extraordinary revolution was what China needed to shake her from her long lethargy; I think the Empress Dowager would have accepted it as a happy solution of the great problem of keeping China's entity intact, and establishing a nation united and strong.

However, I cannot but rejoice that she was borne aloft in the Dragon chariot before the revolution was accomplished!

THE EFFECT OF THE REVOLUTION UPON THE EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM OF CHINA

By P. W. Kuo, M.A., Ex-President of Chinese Students' Alliance in America

In describing China's early attempts to introduce modern education a certain writer compared her to “an infant sea-bather in the act of taking his first plunge, touching the water and then running away, wading out and then tearing back. He did not dare to succumb to the allurements of the fascinating element and though the sight of adult bathers frolicking and playing 'hide and seek' with waves shot an arrow of envy through him, he never undertook the attempt." This attitude, no matter how true it was at the beginning, was certainly not true at the dawn of the revolution. At that time China's attitude toward modern education was not the attitude of the timid sea-bather. She had taken her first plunge, also the second, and even the third, and had fully determined to make modern education accessible to her people at any cost. Evidences of this attitude were seen on every hand. It was seen in the earnestness with which the government carried out its educational policy and in the marvelous development of the modern educational system since its inception in 1905. It was seen in the rapid growth of popular interest toward education shown in the numerous gifts and benefactions given by the wealthy as well as the poor for the extension of educational privileges through the establishment of schools and colleges. It was seen in the presence of an increasingly large number of men and women who were willing to devote their time and talent to the advancement of modern education. These are but a few of the signs which clearly indicate that at the dawn of the revolution the attitude of China toward improving her educational system in modern lines was not at all equivocal and that modern edu

« ForrigeFortsæt »