China Only Yesterday, 1850-1950: A Century of Change

By Emily Hahn | Go to book overview
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Chapter Twelve

Though the Tientsin massacre was dramatic, it could not fairly be described as a sudden, astonishing explosion, for it signified a state of mind that had long existed in China. It might have happened elsewhere, in any one of a dozen places. If this hostility seems to have been aimed more at Catholics than any other section of the Christian church with missions in the country, that is simply because Catholic missionaries had been longer in China than the others, had made more progress, and were perhaps more enterprising than their colleagues. Catholics were zealous, and as France was the special guardian of most of the Catholic missions, and had declared this policy when she joined Great Britain against the Chinese in order to teach them a lesson in regard to Father Chapdelaine, the determined foes of Christianity naturally singled out the French for attack. Additionally inflammatory was the background of the ill-fated French mission at Tientsin. The property had been taken over by the French after their landing with the British in 1860, while the soldiers' depredations were fresh in the minds of the citizens. As if this were not bad enough, the authorities had also pre-empted for their use an Imperial palace, setting up in its grounds the French consulate, the mission buildings, and most particularly--to make assurance of offense doubly sure--the cathedral, which was built on the foundations of the palace temple. Already resentful, the populace was eager to believe the worst of the intruders. Catholic missionaries made a practice of baptizing moribund children, and during epidemics they did their best to induce people to bring in dying infants before it was too late. Prejudiced observers read the most sinister meaning into the sight of children being carried in to the hospital who never came out again, for the little bodies were buried afterwards in the mission's consecrated ground. Atrocity stories were


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China Only Yesterday, 1850-1950: A Century of Change


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