Wandering in Northern China

Wandering in Northern China

Wandering in Northern China

Wandering in Northern China

Excerpt

There is no particular plan to this book. I found my interest turning toward the Far East, and as I am not one of those fortunate persons who can scamper through a country in a few weeks and know all about it, I set out on a leisurely jaunt to wherever new clues to interest led me. It merely happened that this will-o'-the-wisp drew me on through everything that was once China, north of about the thirty-fourth parallel of latitude. The man who spends a year or two in China and then attacks the problem of telling all he saw, heard, felt, or smelled there is like the small boy who was ordered by the teacher to write on two neat pages all about his visit to the museum. It simply can't be done. Hence I have merely set down in the following pages, in the same leisurely wandering way as I have traveled, the things that most interested me, often things that others seem to have missed, or considered unimportant, in the hope that some of them may also interest others. Impressions are unlike statistics, however, in that they cannot be corrected to a fraction, and I decline to be held responsible for the exact truth of every presumption I have recorded. If I have fallen into the common error of generalizing, I hereby apologize, for I know well that details in local customs differ even between neighboring villages in China. What I say can at most be true of the north, for as yet I know nothing of southern China. On the other hand, there may be much repetition of customs and the like, but that goes to show how unchanging is life among the masses in China even as a republic.

Lafcadio Hearn said that the longer he remained in the East the less he knew of what was going on in the Oriental mind. An "old China hand" has put the same thing in more popular language: "You can easily tell how long a man has been in China by how much he does n't know about it. If he knows almost everything, he has just recently arrived; if he is in doubt, he has been here a few years; if he admits that he really knows nothing whatever about the Chinese people or their probable future, you may take it for granted that he has been out a very long time."

But as I have said before, the "old-timer" will seldom sit down to tell even what he has seen, and in many cases he has long since lost his way through the woods because of the trees. Or he may have other and . . .

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