St Joseph Middle School
June 30, 1932
Dear Venerable Mother,
The past year has brought with it much unforeseen work in this far-off land of war and unrest. It is interesting to know that in our own particular school not an hour of study was lost on account of China’s state of political chaos wile in other cities weeks, months, even most of the year was spent in vain as far as actual school work was concerned. Yes, it was a busy year for the three of us -- organizing a school according to a foreign land, managing a foreign group, teaching many hours each week, rehearsing two plays, working up a choir, and last, but not least, attempting to sow some seed of morality in the youth of a generation, who, for the greater part, know not God, were our activities since a few days after we set foot on this heathen soil.
You can realize that my correspondence has been very limited, but now I am writing an account of a trip which Sister Florida and I made about two months ago. We really did not have time to make this trip, but we simply stole the time and went. I am also enclosing a review which I wrote of our Bishop’s Jubilee Celebration and the Laying of the Cornerstone of the new Cathedral here in Tsingtao. You do not see a large church in China very often, for most of them are shacks but in the larger cities there is usually a large Cathedral where there is a Bishop. This city had a Bishop for the past four years.
After the event of the Jubilee, our work was soon in regular order again. Then arose the question of arranging our courses for our Senior Middle School Department which we will open next September. I worked out a preliminary plan for a general course which would include the required subjects leading to the University and also special courses in Domestic Science and Normal work. You know, here in China, the Senior Middle Schools may also train teachers for Primary Schools, if the add the required Normal subjects to their curriculum. Since most of our girls from the interior intend to be Primary School teachers, I thought that our school could do a great deal of good in training them for their work. In conferring with Bishop Weig concerning the plan, His Excellency suggested that we visit some Tientsin and Pelping Middle Schools. I realized that this would be the best way to study the organization of other schools, and I knew that vacation time would not be a good time for it, so I decided that we might try to arrange everything in regard to our work and go at once. Sister Callista felt that she could do the management work and also teach double Sewing periods thus using Sister Florida’s Art periods. As far as pupils were concerned, they were satisfied to do extra practicing and I would give them extra lessons upon my return. My school music periods were used for study, so all was set.
Mrs. Ling arranged for our tickets and made connections with the China Travel Service in Tsinan so that we would have a guide in changing depots. It was about Tuesday night at seven o’clock, April twentieth when all was in readiness for our departure at seven o’clock at the following morning, that I thought of our passports not being visaed for internal travel. Travel in China without a passport! I did not see how we would manage. The American Counsel was our only recourse, but, alas! it was after hours. When should we ask? I felt that if I would tell Bishop Weig, His Excellency might say that I should not run the risk, but just wait a few days until all the red tape of visae work could be finished. With this thought in mind I decided not to bask His Excellency, for our entire plans would be disturbed. I thought rather optimistically that we would slip through, but still I wanted my idea confirmed by the opinion of another optimist,, so I telephoned to Mr. Cannon an Irishman from New York who manages the China Import and Export Limited. His answer was: “Go ahead, Sister. If anyone asks about a passport just say ‘Sure I have one. How did you expect me to get into China without it?” Weill I was happy to receive this answer for we were set on going.
At about six thirty the next morning, our girls were lining up to see us off. Two Sisters, one servant, two suitcases, and one briefcase were soon seen descending the hill in three rickshas drawn by three spry coolies. This was our first trip to the depot here in Tsingtao so there were a few new things for us to see. It is very interesting to see how many people here in China actually take up their beds and walk. All working people and most students carry their beds with them from place to place. The bugs are all tucked in carefully so that only a few fall out. Please remember about these beds, for there is something very interesting to be related concerning this later on in my account.
Besides seeing a large number of people carrying their beds all tucked up in a duck covering, we also observed with interest the number of armed police on each coach. These guys actually have big shot guns tipped with a dagger point. There are at least four on each coach. Upon inquiry I was told that these men are very important in making travel in China not only safe but even possible. The number of bandits outnumbers that of gangster-land in Chicago, but since they are more scattered here in China, sometimes I do not think it is quite as bad as Chicago. All those from Chicago, please, do the read that last sentence.
Soon we were comfortably seated in a second class coach, which rather surprised me on account of its cleanliness. The train seats were upholstered in leather and arranged according to the German plan of having a small table attached to the wall at the window between every two seats. At first I felt a little leery about bedbugs, especially since I had been almost murdered by the fleas last summer. When none attacked us during the first hour, I felt quite safe. Sister Florida and I had plenty of room -- two large double seats. The second class coaches are usually not so crowded as the third where all the poor class Chinese and old missionaries travel while the first class caters to the rich Chinese and foreigners. Now, when we have a little more of the real missionary “ghost” we will travel third class, too. At present, second was the most I could risk, for even there everybody smoked and people are spitting almost continually. Fortunately they strike the cuspidor most of the time.
For a long time no one inquired about tickets, but I took it for granted that these officers were slow in this matter as most of China is in everything except collecting bills. After we had gone through all the suburbs and were far out into the country, along came the conductor with two assistants and double body guard. One assistant preceded the conductor to wake or shake up the passengers. The second did a little fooling around, too, while the two body guards looked rather desperate with their big shotguns and daggers. Our tickets were printed both in Chinese and English. These tickets cost $43.80 Mex for each of us for a round trip travel from Tsingtao to Peiping which is a distance of nearly six hundred miles. That is about $9.50 gold according to the present rate of exchange.
After our tickets were ceremoniously punched, we settled down for a rest by looking at the never ending cemetery through which we were passing. This may sound like a joke but it is an actual fact, that thousands and thousands of graves almost fill the fields of China. Distinction in burial is made among the three classes of people. The very poor who own no land are buried in a common plot of ground while those who own a little land always bury their people right on their farms. Just imagine! If you had buried your ancestors for the last four or five hundred years or perhaps longer on your farm, what a big cemetery that would be. The horses are trained to go carefully between the mounds, which look like Egyptian pyramids, Some are very large, at least twenty feet in diameter and shaped perfectly round terminating in a cone point upon which a small stone rests. Others are very small. Perhaps they are the graves of children. These graves are in some places so close together that they look like a nest of ant hills. I counted nearly one hundred in a small plot of less than two acres. Sometimes nothing is planted between them when they are so close, but occasionally a few rows of plants can be seen. Again you see the graves more scattered so that there are only four or five on an acre. Here the farmer cultivates every inch of the soil between, but that sacred mound he never touches. His dog may sit on the mound, but his horse never steps on it. A number of these graves have a slab monument at the base of which is a little table on which the food for the dead is placed. It is no wonder that the dogs like these graves. We saw a few very large monuments which looked something like the arches of triumph of the Western World. Then again, we saw rows of statues of their pagan gods, which, I suppose, they intend to have as protectors for their graves.
One nice thing about these field cemeteries is that some groups of graves have beautiful trees planted near and around them. Most of the country is very level and sandy, so these trees give at least some beauty to it. There are, of course, mountainous districts which are very beautiful in appearance, but are usually hotbeds of robbers. You can see their little huts far up among the mountain tops.
All the land which is not mountainous or used for graves is intensely cultivated. Even the river beds are used for fields and gardens and one crop is reaped before the rainy season sets in when these river beds are filled to overflowing. There are, surely, very many of them and large. They are much larger than the Mississippi in width.
It is time now to return to our coach and down the aisle you will see coming the fruit man. Well, he is much like the train fruit vendor in the States only that his fruits and his candies do not look so clean and are exposed to the dust and he himself makes much more noise. An actually strange sight is to see a passenger parading through the aisle with a whole roasted chicken. He takes it to his place, sits down, and begins the operation of carving. If he has his family there, dividends are made. To a Chinese, a chicken is his “Leibgericht.” When the chicken is about half devoured, the train boy comes along with steaming hot towels. Each member of the family receives one and then they wipe off their hands only. If they have money enough for many tips, this lad appears again with their tea and when all the chicken is out of sight, fresh hot towels are brought. Eyes, ears, nose and the entire face are well rubbed now, Do you know what happens to these towels after this? Well, they are taken to the lavatory and a bit of hot water is run over them and they are wrung out and given to the next man for him to rub all the eye and skin disease germs into his eyes and skin. A very large percentage of Chinese people have trachoma, a dreadful eye disease, which is almost incurable. Is it any wonder?
Now I want to tell you more about these Chinese farms and the interior country towns. As I told you, every available space is used for cultivation. It seems that most of the famers live in the villate or town alone on a farm and if there is one occasionally, it is surely surrounded by a clay wall. Very early the farmer goes to work in his field. The ox and the donkey are the common field animals. A horse is seldom seen. It is very interesting to see the ox and the donkey hitched, side by side, and going on so peacefully. Farm machines! There are none. The two-wheeled cart for hauling, a plowshare of some crude form for plowing, a few-tined rake for harrowing, and a stone dragged on a rope for rolling are about all there are to be seen. The hand sickle does all the cutting of grain and the flail is used for threshing.
It is interesting to see the farmer under his big straw hat which serves as an umbrella. Clothing troubles him very little for he wears scarcely none. Women and children also work in the fields, but I believe, it must be very difficult for the women with their goat feet. They hobble along with much difficulty all day long to return to their scanty food and bed of clay at night.
Most of these people live in clay houses. When I was still in the States and read of clay houses and other things to be found in China, it was like all book knowledge, but here is the reality. I really would not mind the interior if I could only build my clay hut far enough away from the rest so that the bedbugs and fleas could not travel to my house. Those are the only two things I fear. Those clay huts are so close together that the bedbugs can play hide-and-seek from the windowsills, while one good hop of a flea would take him from one victim to another in the next house. I used to think that mosquitoes are bad, but now I think they are honorable, for at least, they announce their coming by a song.
To return to the people of these villages, surely their lives are most primitive. They grind their meal by man or donkey power. Their stoves are made of clay and have in most cases, no exterior outlet for the smoke. The flame is fanned by means of bellows. As a rule, no wood floors are to be found, but clay is usually used and sometimes stone. Most of these houses have only one room, in which they cook, eat, sleep, live and die. The Catholic Missionary who works in these interior places usually has to live in the same manner. When he goes to his various missions he frequently spreads his bed in the stable with the donkey.
Villages are qute numerous in China. Usually the railroad funs along one side of the town and outside the wall. It is surely surprising how many people dwell in one comparatively small area. One place appeared to me to have about six or seven thousand inhabitants, but, upon inquiring, I found that the number was about seventy-five thousand. usually the individual families are very large and besides that, one home is frequently made up of the grandparents, the father and occasionally three wives, all the children, and if some are married, their families also. And perhaps a few stray uncles, aunts and cousins. The relationship is one of the biggest puzzles here. We have had this experience right here in school that a young man would call to see his sister, a student of ours. To every question that I placed the answer was: “Wa she ta die gogo” -- “I am her older brother.” In every case we found that it was a cousin or distant relative of some sort. Now they are not trying the “gogo” scheme so much anymore.
Village after village we passed and in everyone where the train stopped we observed there was usually a well-built depot. I think, these were all built by the Germans when they put in this railway before the World War. I am sure, if the Chinese were to build them they would never be there.
At about five thirty that evening we were nearing Tsinanfu, the capital of our Province, Shantung. That part of the country is very rocky. Hills of almost solid rock are commonly seen. We could see the Cathedral which is in Hunkgialou, a suburb of Tsinanfu. Here is where the Sisters from St. Francis, Wisconsin are. Before long we were at the main station Tsinanfu where our Trravel Service man was “Johnny on the Spot.” He spoke a few words of English, but we got along better in Chinese. The distance to the other depot was not so very great, so we walked over. Here we had to make reservations for Express Travel so that we could be in Tientsin the following morning. we were both very tired, so in order to be fit for visiting schools immediately the next morning, we took a sleeper. Ont thing about these sleepers is that you have plenty of room. Even in second class there are compartments which have the full width of the train except the narrow aisle which is along one side. Each compartment has two sofas long enough for beds while above there are also suspended beds which, if you are alone or with one only, you can use for baggage. Each compartment has two windows, so you have plenty of air. These sofas have no springs so there is not so much comfort in lying on them, but as long as there are no bedbugs, I don’t mind sleeping on a stone. You are given a blanket for covering the bed, two sheets, and one light blanket in case you are chilly.
It was a bright moonlit night and the moon in North China is unusually beautiful. it was so clear and bright that we could easily have counted the graves of that interminable cemetery. The nearer we came to Tientsin, the more bleak and sandy the country looked. At seven thirty we arrived at the main station where we were met by two of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary. Anyone who makes a trip to Tientsin will surely never forget the behavior of the rickshaw coolies at the Railway Station. When you are first in China you become disgusted with this rough scrambling which they do in trying to force you into their rickshaws, but after you are here some time, you learn how to steer through and even find time to do a little observing. Well here is what I saw. One coolie was bent on forcing the servant boy of the sisters to ride in his rickshaw, so he snatched the traveling bag from the servant’s hand and put it in his rickshaw. A policeman from the nearby corner saw this, ran from his post to the rickshaw, grabbed the cushion, spat in the coolie’s face, and ran back to his post to direct the traffic. At first the coolie was so dumbfounded that he did not know what to do. Then, quickly, he wiped the spit from his face, ran towards the policeman to get his cushion when, suddenly he realized that he might lose that passenger, he chased back and tried to persuade the boy to ride in his rickshaw, but it was too late. This, I suppose, is a daily occurrence.
We were now on our way to a church where we could receive Holy Communion. The thought that we had not been held up for our passports was a rather happy one. The Church to which we went is in charge of French Missionary Fathers, the Vencentians. We were soon on our way to St Joseph School where we were to lodge during our stay in Tientsin. There we had breakfast, and at once I sent a note to Miss Hsia, the Principal of a Chinese Girls’ Middle Norman School, asking her whether or not it would be convenient for her to have us visit her school that day. We knew this Miss Hsia, for she is an honorary member of our school board and she has recently visited in Tsingtao. Her answer was that she could not be in for that day so she kindly asked us to wait until the morrow. We still have enough American in us to sense the value of one day, so I decided that we would take rickshaws and simply find our way through. We set out for Nankai Middle School for Chinese Girls. I had already heard of this place, so there was a little light in the undertaking. The Sisters where we were staying work with white girls so they are not acquainted with Chinese schools.
I forgot to mention that while we were waiting for the answer from Miss Hsia, we visited the classrooms of this St Joseph School. We met one Sister whose home is in Washington D.C. and another from Rhode Island. They teach in this school. The courses are based upon the English System which finally ends with the Cambridge Examinations. Very many of the girls are Russians, but many other nationalities are represented.
Nine-thirty o’clock found us at the gate of Nankai. The first question was: “Where is your card?” in Chinese. Just so it was not: “Where is your passport?” I had had some cards made, for you actually must write your name on a scrap of paper if you have no card, but I had forgotten to take them along. We asked for someone who could speak English, but the first one who met us could only speak Chinese. In the meantime an English teacher was called. The Principal of this school was over at the boys’ school at that time.
Before I tell you about our experiences at that school, I will tell you a little of its history which dates back thirty-three years. It began in a private family and twenty-eight years ago a regular school was opened all through private enterprise. A Chinese, named Chang Pu Lin, is really the great man who built up this school. He has often been in the United States and has continual contact with Columbia University, New York. Just before we went to Tientsin, Dr. Rugg from Columbia was at Nankai University doing some research work in Chinese Philosophy. Nankai includes a University, a boys’ middle school, a girls’ middle school and a primary school, including Kindergarten. The enrollment of the boys’ school is eighteen hundred. The Mrs. Chang Pu Lin whom I mentioned, has a brother who made himself famous in New York some years ago by translating into English and staging the historical play “Mulan.” I believe the entire project of that institution in its various parts has been greatly aided by American Advice and money. Very many of their teachers are American - returned students.
It was the girls’ school in which we were particularly interested. This school was built in 1923, much later than the boys’ middle school. The building is quite up to date and looks very much like our own. It has four floors and a large auditorium at one end of the building. The seating capacity of this auditorium is four hundred, that is ordinarily, but I believe there is room for six hundred. They have ten classrooms, a library, twenty-two small dormitories, in which there is room for eight students in each. The dining room is quite large, but their kitchen is a sad looking affair. Well it is like all Chinese kitchens. The kitchen and sanitation system are the two weak parts of the school. For four floors they have only one toilet room which has about eight toilets in it. Next to it is a washroom, where the girls must come to wash every morning. The basins stand on the floor. They have three bathtubs which we did not see. Near the main building they are building a detention hospital for victims of contagion.
In regard to their curriculum they follow the courses as outlined by the Central Bureau at Nanking, but since this school has prestige in the educational field, they work with a little more independence than most registered schools can. They seem to have a good teaching force, but, undoubtedly their English is weak for they have no American or English teachers. All the English is taught by Chinese whose pronunciation is not so good and who do not insist upon conversation on the part of the students. This is true in most Chinese schools. The students finish middle school with a knowledge of grammar, but cannot carry on a simple English conversation. The schools are surely failing in the point of English which is laid down as a required course for one year in Primary and six years Middle School. I suppose, when it is all summed up it is much like the modern language classes in the united States, where very few learn to converse fluently in foreign languages.
One interesting phase of work they do at that school is the study of social problems. Each week a group goes out for investigation work. Well, they can investigate for the next one hundred years and there will still be plenty left for investigation.
I forgot to mention before that in this school there are no science laboratories, but the girls go to the boys’’ middle school for all their science work. There they really have fine laboratories in which equipment and apparatus abound.
While we were at the boys’ school we went to the roof where we had a very good view of Tientsin. It is about the most monotonous affair I ever saw. One mass of gray roofs of Chinese buildings. Roofs! and still more roofs for miles around with scarcely a taller building to break the monotony. To add to this monotony there is that somber gray color and a still more gray dust fills the air. Only a few streets are paved, and these are mostly in the foreign concession, while the others are dirt roads covered with thick dust in dry weather and you can imagine how muddy they are when it rains. They have an antique method of sprinkling the streets. Two men carry a tub of water in the middle of the street and there they set it down. Then each one takes a dipper and does his bit toward sanitation in that district. I he happens to be making a graceful swing with his arm as your rickshaw nears, you might get part of the gentle stream. By the time these coolies are ready to move the tub most of the sprinkled part has dried up. I did see one water wagon for sprinkling but most of it is done by this “Hit and dty” method. Since there is much wind in Tientsin, you can imagine how the air is filled with dust. Many people wear veils over their faces.
Now to return to our schools. I must say that we really decided we would have to return to the school where we lodged after we had visited the laboratories of the boys’ school. I notice that i forgot to write about the athletic grounds of Nankai. The girls’ school really does not have much room for athletics but just across the street is the Primary School which has very suitable athletic grounds and equipment which are used by the girls of Nankai Middle School. The boys’ school has very excellent grounds including a very large football field. They are very conveniently located at the edge of the city with plenty room for expansion.
We really did not visit the Primary School until we returned from Peiping, but I shall tell you about it now. This school is controlled by methods used in the American Schools. They have a very good building and even an auditorium. All told, it reminded me of an American school excepting the language.
When we reached our place of lodging, we were very tired. After Benediction we said our prayers and were ready for supper and bed. The next day found us at the “Sheng Gong Girls’ Middle Norman School.” This is the place where Miss Hsia, whom I mentioned before, is Principal. Miss Hsia is a Catholic and she is working under the Catholic Bishop of Tientsin, but she receives no financial assistance from the Mission. It is, in one way, a private enterprise on her part. She belongs to an old Catholic family which was interested in education. Now this Miss Hsia through the help of her school board, succeeds in soliciting each year about @10,000 Mex, which is the annual deficit. In the Middle School Department there are one hundred eighty girls, but the income cannot meet the expenses, even though Mis Hsia’s school is run on a plan as strictly economical as possible. This annual deficit is true in regard to the ten schools we visited. Miss Hsia also has a Primary School which is very well managed. In the first four grades they have boys and girls, but above these grades there are only girls.
I want to tell you more about the Middle School Department before I proceed. I think you will be interested to know that Sheng Gung is also the name of our school. It means “The School of Good Works.” This is a very good Chinese name, but it is not so easily translated into a suitable English name, hence we have another name in English.
In the Junior Department of that school the course is based on the same plan as it is for all Junior Middle Schools. It is the Senior Department where the special courses are given, which in the case of Sheng Gung, the aim is special training in Normal work for Primary School teachers who teach the first six year course. The girls must take enough of general courses so that they can enter a University if they do not choose to teach. Some of the Normal courses are Logic, Child Psychology, Science of Education, Methods, Management and General Philosophy. These are high-sounding names for Middle School students, but I wonder what it really is when it is all summed up. As yet, I am very skeptical about the whole affair. At any rate, I am going into this matter more deply when our Chinese teacher for next year arrives. This man is now on a translating Committee in Shanghai, but will come here next year to head our Chinese Language Department. He speaks English very well so I am planning on having him investigate these Normal subjects for me, and find out just what is being done, or whether it is a “Name without a Game.” If we have these subjects in our school, I think we will teach most of these in English. Many Catholic Missions of the Interior are hoping to have some of their girls trained in our school so that they will have teachers for their Primary Schools. This Sheng Gung Girls’ School, which I just told you about, sends many teachers to various parts of China, particularly to the Catholic Mission Schools.
We had now completed the second day of visiting schools and felt that we ought to go on to Peiping so that we would be there over Sunday, which would enable us to see something of the Imperial Palace without interfering with our school program. At four o’clock we boarded the express train which was to arrive in Peiping at seven o’clock that evening. On this train the second class coaches were so crowded that we could not find a place at all. The smoke was so dense and the air so foul that I decided that we would surely have headaches worse than we already had if we would remain in a place like that for three hours. The heat was intense. Well, we just went over to the first class and there we found room. The trip brought with it nothing new of interest, for it was very similar to the one I described. Before we realized it we were entering the massive walls of the Imperial city. The great wall of China is not within your view when you travel from Tientsin to Peiping. It is some distance away in another direction and visiting it requires a full day if you travel from Peiping and return.
At the depot we were met by Reverend Francis Claugherty, Chancellor of the Catholic University of Peiping, and two of the Benedictine Sister who are preparing to found the Women’s College. To meet co-workers in the mission field is a great joy, nay, I say a thrill. To look at yellow faces from morning till night and to have only your small limited circle of white people who are not always so pleasing to human nature. I have not sensed it yet how the interior missionaries stand it, but I suppose, their only strength is our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
In a short time we were out at the University, for the little Ford the Fathers have runs just like all the tin Lizzies run in America. We went to the Sisters’ home which is quite near the University and was formerly the home of Archbishop Costantini, the Papal Delegate of China. This was an interesting place for it had formerly been the servants’ quarters and stables of a prince’s palace which was across the street. You entered the massive red gate and were soon behind impenetrable walls within which you were led from one court to another. I will describe these Chinese houses later, and for the present we will pass on to the dining room where supper awaited us. You can imagine the merry chatter which accompanies that supper.
Early the next morning we were prepared to visit another school known as Peiping Girls’ First Middle School. This school was formerly a summer garden of the Tsung Dynasty, consequently, there are many small Chinese homes scattered throughout the grounds. These houses number about fifty and are used to serve for all the purposes of the school. They are all hidden behind a big wal, so that when you drive up to the entrance all you can see is the big gate. These Chinese houses are all about the same size, which I would estimate to range between twenty-four and thirty feet long and about fourteen feet wide. You see upon the collapse of the last Imperial Dynasty, many of these palaces, summer gardens and other Imperial places were simply seized by the rising power, or were sold by the princes. When these people actually occupied these places, they frequently divided these houses into three parts or rooms by means of a partition made of carved framework of wood and covered with Chinese paper. Now the school has removed these partitions and one building usually serves as a classroom, library and any other purpose. They have nine classrooms, fifteen small rooms which are used for dormitories, one library room, one reading room, a wretched looking dining room, while the other buildings are used for various purposes. They have a very good athletic field which is not unusually large, but well-surfaced and equipped.
The enrollment is about three hundred. I forgot that this is a government middle school, which accounts for the wretched condition in general. Dilapidation is the only word that could describe the condition of these buildings. The dirty, dirtier, and dirtiest walls; desks which are more ancient than those which the naught boys of Ichabod Crane carved and disfigured; windows which feel the touch of water only when it rains, and then on the outside only; a platform for the teacher through which he will fall some day; and other conditions such as a musty old odor in the girls’ washroom which reminds one of the tub of wash water which your grandmother forgot to empty in 1892. We did not ask to see the toilet rooms for the lavatories were enough. In these you could see toothbrushes sticking out of the dirtiest cups and singing a song of hygiene melody for the emancipation from such an unsanitary condition. We were told at one of the Protestant mission schools, that flush toilets are scarcely ever found in Chinese schools, for it is hopeless to keep them in running order for Chinese have no sense of keeping any machines or apparatus in order. Well, that is true, for I positively knew that if we had not stood up and actually stormed here we would now be digging up sewer pipes. But, storm you must in China and after this you will have bright clear days. Now we have less trouble than the average American school has.
As I said, this was a government school and supposed to be supported by the government, but the government allowance does not meet the expenses, so the girls must pay tuition which is $14 Mex per semester. They pay seven dollars per month for meals and eight dollars a semester for dormitory. The curriculum is based upon that as given out by the Central Bureau of Nanking. French instead of English is taught, for this is permitted in Peiping, where French has predominated for so many, many years.
I must not pass over the general behavior of the students. It seems that in the classes we visited in session were quite orderly, but how the girls behaved as regards to ordinary manners manifested as much neglect in training as the buildings did in their upkeep. Of course, I suppose, we, in our garbs, appeared to them to be brings from another world so that was one reason why their curiosity was at its highest pitch. They followed us everywhere. They had to hear every word that the guide spoke to us. When they could not all get into the building in which we went, they lined up at the windows. The strange thing of it all was that not once were they told to go away and play. It was about noon when we returned to the Sisters’ home. That afternoon it rained and we were glad to have a little rest from going about. Sister Florida and I went to our little Chinese house, one of the man of this estate. I will now tell you a little more about the Benedictine Sisters’ home. If I remember rightly there were three courtyards. These courts are enclosed by four buildings, of which three walls are built of brick. The fourth, facing the curt is a framework of wood which includes the windows which are not of glass but of netting. The curtains are of paper which rolls up and down. The remaining parts of this inner wall are made of paper, which can keep out cold and wind rather remarkably. There is a veranda facing each court from every side. The roofs of the houses are made of Chinese tile, curving in typical Chinese architectural style, and extending down over the veranda. On the outside walls Chinese pictures and scenes are painted.
The Sisters use one of these houses as a community room, one for chapel, others for bedrooms and other purposes. The enclosed court-grounds are covered with bricks a few of which have been removed to make room for some flowers. The sun beats down intently into these courts and the dust from the desert regions covers the city and swops down into the yards and goes through the open doors leaving a layer of thick dust on everything. Heat and dust are two unpleasant elements in Peiping. The Sisters dress in white from about May first until early Fall.
Now we have come to Sunday morning, April twenty-fourth. After Mass and breakfast we had an appointment to meet Archbishop Costantini, the Papal Delegate to China. It was nine o’clock when we, in company with Sister Francetta, the Sister Superior of the Benedictines, came to the home of His Excellency. For the first fifteen or twenty minutes the Archbishop did nothing but speak of our Community, our wonderful Sanitarium, and the kind hospitality and solicitude which were tendered him when His Excellency was ill in the States last year and stopped in Milwaukee for treatment. He then asked about our work here and talked at length concerning the education of Chinese for Catholic leadership. Before we departed His Excellency showed us the painting of a Chinese artist who was to be baptized by him on the vigil of Pentecost. He also gave us a large picture of the first Chinese Bishops who were consecrated in Rome a few years ago. Then he placed his car at our disposal during our stay in Peiping so that we might be able to get around as much as possible. It was a pleasant visit for us and one we will never forget. I can still see the venerable and kindly appearance of His Excellency as he met us in his Chinese gown and slippers. Surely, his heart is in China, and his love which he manifests in his efforts to bring this nation to Christ has touched the heart of many a native.
The next item on our program was a visit to the Temple of Heaven where the emperors of old sacrificed to their pagan gods once a year. The grounds of the temple cover many acres, perhaps about seven hundred or more than what is known as a section of land in the States. There are many beautiful trees and it is in the Oriental places like this where you can see ancient trees spoken of in the Bible and Oriental Literature. Among these trees are old Chinese buildings, once beautiful, but now fallen into ruin. These smaller buildings were formerly used as servants’ quarters and stables. Beautiful roofed walks lead from place to place. But it is mainly the Temple of Heaven that I want to tell you about. This is really not one building but a number of buildings, altars, halls and burners. First when you enter you see a blue-roofed wall to the right. All the buildings of this place are blue-roofed, no doubt symbolic of the firmament. The roofs of other buildings of the royal palace are golden-colored, while those belonging to princes were green. This hall which I mentioned is called the Hall of Abstinence. It was the place where the Emperor remained some time previous to the annual days of sacrifice. We did not go into this hall, for it is now occupied by Chinese soldiers.
We drove quite far into the grounds until we came to the entrance of the New Year Hall. By the entrance I do not mean the door, but a rather large building through which pass three arched driveways which admit you to the inner court. Then we passed through the court which is enclosed by a wall, houses, and even a moat. When we came to the steps that lead up to the temple we noticed there were three sections. In the days of old, only the Emperor ascended by way of the middle section, while his officials, courtiers, and whatnot ascended the narrower side flight of steps. Even these were not narrow. The New Year Hall proper is a perfectly round building, built on the top of a terraced marble house base which is at least three hundred feet in diameter and seventy feet high. The buiding itself is a massive structure, baring the most beautiful roof of blue tile. Inside there are to be seen the burners and statues, but not much else. The ceiling is elaborately worked out in Chinese architecture and is certainly most beautiful. It is in this hall where the Emperor went every Chinese New Year to express his wishes to his official family.
From the hall we went to the Ancestor Temple which contains incense burners and is the place where the Emperor worshipped his ancestors. Then on another part of the grounds we visited the Altar of Sacrifice which is also enclosed within a wall. That part which they call the altar is not an altar as we understand it, but it is the top section of a three-terraced perfectly round stone structure, each terrace being edged with a marble railing. There is no roof over it at all. In fact, it reminds one of an old Roman amphitheater, except that the central part is higher instead of being lower than that of the outer parts. The terrace in width consists of nine huge slabs of stone, a number which is used in all architectural work pertaining to royalty. It is symbolic of the nine ranks of officials of the Emperor’s court. All the huge gates have nine brass knobs in each of nine rows which serve as an ornamentation. The marble which I mentioned is not exactly the same as Western marble, but it is very beautiful also. I do not think that it is as valuable.
After we returned for dinner, we decided to go over to visit the Catholic University, at least the grounds and the Middle School. This we did, but I will tell you about it later and will then incude everything about our visit there, for we went over several times. That evening we were very tired, so tired that I fell asleep in a chair and amused the Sisters’ little Pekinese dog by my snoring.
The next morning found us at Bridgman Academy, or, as it is known in Chinese, Bei Mai. This school is managed by an American Protestant missionary group. They have many small buildings and beautiful grounds. The entire place gives the impression of order and good supervision. The classrooms are neat and clean and the sanitary equipment is the best we saw in Peiping. They have a fairly good library and reading room. Their athletic grounds are very good, the basketball section being enclosed on three sides and under roof. In their dormitory they have wooden beds, consequently, in spite of other elements of cleanliness, the American teacher who spoke to us said there were bugs in the beds. She said they would fumigate now and again, but they never keep free from these pests. That is because the girls bring their own bedding.
Their courses are the same as all registered schools, except that you can tell from what they told us that there is more originality and independence in working out the courses. They are however, not so strong in English, for one of the American teachers told us that it is not so necessary, for this is China. It seems too bad to have all American English teachers and then not aim at a good speaking ability. Why teach it at all and instead use those five hours a week for Chinese, since they are in China? I believe, the day is not far off when every educated Chinese will be expected to speak good English.
In regard to religion, they told us that the number who attend services is quite small. One teacher said that it was a perfectly normal condition, just like it is in America. I suppose, that is true in regard to American Protestant Churches.
Tuesday morning we saw Archbishop Costastini’s chauffeur at the gate awaiting to take us out to visit more schools. We first went to government registered school, but which is under private management and is known as Peiping Junior Middle School. Miss Ying, who is Principal is a relative of Miss Hsia of Sheng Gung Girls’ School of Tientsin and is, consequently, of the same old Catholic family which counts a number of Martyrs, who during the Boxer Rebellion shed their blood for their faith.
Miss Ying’s school was formerly a temple of pagan worship and was partly given to her by a Chinese Prince. Now it is in a pitiful state of dilapidation and it seems that Miss Ying has not enough funds to restore it. I admire her persistence in trying to do what she can to help educate China’s youth, for she is surely laboring under difficulties. You may be interested to know that Miss Ying’s niece, a Miss Mary Ying, is coming to our school next year to be one of our teachers and if we find her capable she will be our future Principal. If she is as brave as those Martyrs of her family were she ought to be a good help to me in dealing with those fickle-minded officials who are continually tampering into our school affairs. I would not mind if they knew anything, but some of them cannot actually interpret their own language correctly.
Now to return to this Junior Middle School and we will find a number of small buildings which are also used for primary School classes. Just as I told you concerning those other schools, one building usually serves as a classroom. All these buildings spell neglect and equipment is almost zero. The course is the general course outlined for Junior schools. We did not spend much time there, consequently I have only a general impression. I was most interested in meeting this younger Miss Ying who had been engaged for us.
In company with miss Ying we ent to a school known as St. Joseph Middle Normal School for Girls. This is also registered. In fact, they all must be or close their doors for Nanking is continually on their heels. This school is controlled by the Catholic Bishop of Peiping. The direct management is in the hands of native Chinese Sisters, who really do not wear a garb similar to ours, but wear a type of Chinese dress. They have no veils.
The enrollment is about two hundred in the Middle School Department. Almost one third of the students are Catholics and they told us that the number of converts each year is about the same now as it was before they registered.
The building and grounds of this school are quite good. It seems the building is not so old, for the corridors and steps are all terazzo, but, if they would only keep them clean. The dirt was actually one fourth of an inch thick in some places. Peiping dust is bad and daily cleaning is absolutely necesary, consequently any neglect means a very unsanitary condition. The individual classrooms were being swept by the girls, so we were met by a cloud of dust. The equipment was about the same as is found in the average city school in China. The dormitories were rather neat and clean.
As regards the courses taught, they are the same as all registered schools. I did not ask, but I think French is taught instead of English. The students were rather curious about our presence, but since so many were Catholics, they approached us rather freely. Our garb amused them. One said to me in Chinese, “Oh! you have two sleeves on each arm.”
I am now going to tell you about two more middle schools and then I will tell you something about one of the two parts of the Palace we saw and, finally, I would like to take you on a general trip through Peiping in order to give you an idea of the features of this ancient city, particularly its social life.
Let us go to Peiping Middle Normal School for boys and girls. This is a government school and was built in 1913, shortly after the rise of the Republic. The boys and the girls have separate grounds and buildings, but the Principal and other officers are the same for both schools. The buildings since they were originally built for school purposes are quite good. The grounds are really beautiful and well kept. We were told that the monthly allowance made by the government for the maintenance of this school is 9,000 Mex. The students pay no tuition, board, nor extra fees. The cost of incidentals amounts to about $50.00 per student. Of course that depends upon the individual student. Practically all the students live in the dormitory and it is no wonder. The equipment in general is quite good. Their library numbers ten thousand books (Chinese), and several hundred of each English and Japanese books. They have eight Chinese daily newspapers, one English and one Japanese. Their reading room is rather large, while the book room proper adjoining it is not so large. It is interesting to note that practically all the Chinese schools that have any library at all, have the books out of the reach of the students. The students may use the books, but they may not take one from the shelves, but must call for each one they want. This is because if the students were to handle the books at will, soon the shelves would be empty. One school had three thousand volumes stolen last year and sold in the bookstores of Peiping.
The laboratory equipment is fairly good. They have two laboratories -- Physics and Chemistry in one and Biology in the other. Four pianos are provided for the use of the students, while four teachers are engaged to teach the piano students. The rate for piano is $1.75 per hour.
The school has no gymnasium nor auditorium. Their dormitories number twenty-four in the boys’ school and are quite well kept. Ten boys occupy one dormitory. The girls’ school has four, each having room for twenty girls. This girls’ school has actually nine bathtubs, which is almost a luxury in China. They have a common washroom. Neither of the schools provide for the students’ laundry, so it is sent out.
In regard to the athletic fields, the boys have one small field that is not so good, but they do have a large football field. The girls have two large basketball fields which are very good.
Now let us go to Fu Yen Middle School of the Catholic University conducted by the American benedictine Fathers. It may sound like boasting, but I want to tell you that there is the place where you see the results of “American Pep.” You might say it is a most unique situation. It is a beautiful blend of Western cleanliness, order, and discipline in with a perfectly Chinese setting. This school has grown very rapidly, which is to be attributed to the excellent management which is now known throughout China.
The grounds of Middle School adjoin those of the University, both were former palatial property. The buildings of the Middle School are many and scattered throughout the large garden space. As in the case of other schools which I described, one building usually serves as a classroom. Their laboratories are large and well-equipped. Some library books are provided for the students, but most of their library work must be done at the University library nearby.
I will now say a few words about the Catholic University. The architectural work of the University buildings was planned by a Benedictine Father who is famous in his work of adapting Chinese art to Christian purposes. The buildings are of a beautiful gray either stone or stuccoed bricks. I know not which. The following is a quotation taken from the Fu Yen News Letter of February, 1932. “A new building to accommodate four hundred students was constructed in 1930; its designer, architect, painter, and sculptor is Dom Adelbert Gresnigt, of the famous Beuren School of Art. He has found his inspiration in the city wall with its towers and gates, combining economy and convenience, while adhering to the traditions of Chinese architecture.” The University is famous for its excellent administration and fine discipline so that the student body of the Middle School and University has increased to almost one thousand in total existence of only six years.
Now since we have completed our views of all the Peiping schools we visited, the next to be described is part of the Imperial Palace. The Emperor’s palatial residences and official buildings are located in four different sections of the city. Since our stay in Peiping was comparatively short, considering the number of schools we visited, our time for sightseeing was very limited. One section of the Imperial Palace we did manage to see. This was the official residence of the Emperor, but, since the rise of the Republic, it has been converted into the National Museum. Ground space abounds in this place for in the days of royalty it was there in the open spaces where the entire official family of the Emperor were already on their knees with bowed head at an early hour in the morning, awaiting the arrival of the Emperor who came daily to issue his orders. There are a number of magnificent golden-roofed buildings in beautiful Chinese architecture. Practically every building is now used as a section of the National Museum. Now, how could I ever describe the treasures to be seen there? It is almost impossible, so I will be brief. One most interesting exhibit is the one hundred and forty seven clocks which are more beautiful than dream clocks could ever be. Most of them are gifts of European rulers, particularly England, which makes me wonder whether or not this nation wanted to have China realize what time it was in regard to foreign aggression. Now these clocks rate from gold to diamond settings. They are of all sizes and shapes and when running they control fountains, chimes, music of many kinds, groups of people, animals, and whatnot.
Then there were old Chinese musical instruments, vases, urns, burners, dishes, embroidery work, bronze, which numbered thousands and thousands of pieces. Much of this was removed from the royal museum when the Empire fell, but who knows how much had been stolen. There are treasures there which are many centuries old and I wonder if there is any collection in the world which can equal this. Of course, I have not seen much of the world, but since China has the oldest civilization, I am thinking that, perhaps, no nation could have a collection of vases and urns and embroidery such as this. The amount of it is so astounding. We walked for hours and hours and then departed without having seen it all. The Art Gallery we never even entered, for it was getting late. And this was only one of the four parts of the Imperial Palace. Of course, since this is the National Museum, it has the greatest collection, but all of the other parts enclose treasures for we saw many pieces of art in the Summer Palace which I will tell you about.
A visit to the Summer Palace was not on our program for we intended to leave Peiping on Wednesday afternoon. Before we were to depart we called on His Excellency, Archbishop Costantini for a few minutes in order to thank him for the services of his car. His Excellency asked us where we had visited and what we had seen and when he heard that we had not seen the Summer Palace, he thought for a moment and the said, “My car will call for you tomorrow morning at nine o’clock and you shall see the Summer Palace, for as teachers in China, you must see some of China’s treasures and centers of interest.” To speak of an argument, there was neither room nor propriety for one with the Papal Delegate and consequently, we remained in Peiping for another day.
The Summer Palace would require volumes for its description, but I will give you only a general view of it. It is located among the beautiful hills about eight miles from Peiping. I do not recall its first being built, but I know it was restored seventy years ago. The old parts are, at least, centuries old. The area of the palatial grounds is around twenty square miles. Among the hills is a beautiful lake which is connected with Peiping by means of a river. The most outstanding of the works of architecture stand high upon the hills. We saw only the most important of the structures, but some distance away we could see the Jade Pagoda towering up from a hilltop. Jade is the most beautiful creamy stone which reminds me of melted marble that has hardened or rather carmel cream frosting that my mother used to put on cakes. Many people who came to the Orient have rings made and set with jade stone. There are, perhaps, other colors of jade, but I really do not know, for all we saw was cream-colored in which there was a tint of green.
Now I will tell you something of the buildings we saw. Near the entrance was the Empress Dowager’s official residence which is now used as an exhibit place for treasures of the Empress. Books, urns, vases and pictures, and among it all are two pianos, gifts from the United States. The throne is an interesting but uncomfortable looking affair. Other buildings were, for the greater part, located quite far from the entrance. The Empress Dowager’s bedroom was a palace in itself, while the writing and drawing rooms were in a most unique separate building, built somewhat in the style of a pagoda.
Each part of the palatial residences usually has a magnificent entrance which is particularly true concerning the entrance to the Temple of the Clouds. The temple itself is far up on the hilltop. We climbed the marble steps and were quite exhausted when we reached the top. No matter how tired we were, our guide would say, “Come take a look-see at this.” We did not go to the extreme top of the temple, but when we came to a balcony which surrounds the building some distance away from the wall, we sat down to rest. The sun was very hot, so we needed a few minutes to cool off. We were very thirst, so we ordered some tea which is served up there so high in the air. It is not a good policy ever to eat or drink anything at any of these places in China, but when you buy tea, you wash the cup first with a little hot tea and then you need not fear drinking the rest of the tea for it is usually boiling hot. While we three, Sister Francetta, Sister Florida, and I were sitting there, I felt someone touching my veil. I moved my head slowly and then noticed a wide flowering sleeve next to me. A person of medium stature having an elderly face rather fine-featured, a perfectly shorn head, and dressed in long flowing gown stood before me. I looked at the being in silence, when soon this phenomenon moved on. Then followed four or five similar looking beings only much younger probably only eighteen or twenty. They sat down not far from us while I thought to myself: “What clean looking boys those are.” Before long a few of them approached us each having a string of beads which moved rapidly between their fingers. One took hold of Sister Florida’s rosary and asked in Chinese: “Is Buddha your god?” and immediately the inquirers lips moves as the beads moved between his or her fingers. Yes, it was really “his or her” to us. A few words of conversation in Chinese revealed to us that they were Buddhist nuns who serve in a temple in Peiping. Do you know what they were saying when their lips moved? “Buddha is good.” On and on they went between almost all the sentences they spoke. Now, I am telling you that they were quite a curiosity to us. Perhaps we were equally such to them. You should have seen them pose when Sister Francetta took their picture.
Our guide then took us to see the prayer wheel for the Temple on which the Buddhists write their prayers and then as often as the wheel is turned they think their prayer is sent to their god. You would be surprised how many Chinese are really pagans. Even though Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, never intended his followers to be idol worshippers,nevertheless most Buddhists have fallen into idolatry. Very near to this temple was the bronze Temple which was badly damaged during a Japanese invasion some years ago. Behind this temple is another hill of solid rock which was carefully smoothed and an immense mirror, at least sixty feet high, was set in. When we came to this part, our guide said, “Come take a look-see at what the Japanese did.” They had fired upon the temples, shattered much of the bronze one and made splinters of the mirror.
The interior of the temple itself was very elaborate in its Chinese art work. A huge brass statue of Buddha stood in the center while other statues of pagan worship were grouped around him. The greater portion of the floor space is perfectly free for the use of the people.
We descended the hill by a winding path which led through solid stone tunnels of short length and then out again. It was at the exit of one of them that we had our picture, which I am enclosing, taken. Down and down we went until we came to the lake again. There we saw the boathouse and an old steamboat used in the days of the Empress Dowager. A very large marble boat of double deck stood near the shore. Here is where royalty entertained, for the boat could be used for naught else. Now the decks are used for public drink and lunch rooms. Far out into the waters of the lake is the image of a gigantic cow enclosed within a marble rail and resting upon stone slabs. This cow is to be the guardian of the waters. A person must marvel at the skill these Chinese had in engineering without any knowledge of modern methods. They have marvelous seventeen-arch bridge spanning the waters of this lake and another one known as the “Camel Bridge.” The Lotus beds are large and when in bloom they say they are a charming sight. One pond is known as the “Goldfish pond” which is literally filled with goldfish.
The Chinese are very fond of walks which are under roof but open on the sides. One of these long verandas along which we walked was about one half a mile long. At intervals of about ten feet each were a pillar and a cross beam upon which some scene of the Imperial Palace was painted.
The outside theater was quite a novelty. It was built quite high, the space surrounding it being filled with water. Only the rear was enclosed while the three sides were open for the audience to view the performances. The Emperor and the Empress sat on thrones in buildings directly opposite the stage. To the right were the box seats of the Emperor’s seventy-two concubines.
There is much more to be said about this Summer Palace, but I think I have said enough to give you an impression of the main features. I was quite impressed that the people who were born into luxurious surroundings or acquired positions in such surroundings in later life, surely have a struggle to satisfy their craving for luxury, pleasure, and sensuality. According to my mind, none of this could spell happiness, for the sight of it all is enough to tell how their whole lives were spent in killing time. The rising generations scorns the weaknesses and follies of these royal people of old, while they themselves are looking in vain for a remedy for the present chaotic state of affairs in China, which must necessarily attend a transition in which there is almost a complete abolition of a civilization five thousand years old and attempt to modernize a people who for a great part refuse to be modernized, for they know not what it means.
Before we leave Peiping I must tell you about some features of this city. As I said before, Peiping is in reality a city behind the walls. When you pass through the streets of Peiping you can form no idea of what you might see within the walls of the compounds. The streets are for the greater part only dirt roads. Riding in a car on these roads is something like riding on a trotting horse. It is true, most of the through streets are paved and in the legation quarters where the foreigners live everything appears like a Western city. Formerly no Chinese except servants were even permitted to enter these quarters. Now let us return to the streets of the Chinese section. After you are well shaken in the car or rickshaw you must steer carefully, for a drove of pigs is blocking the way. If the owner is with his pigs, he may hurry them out of your way, otherwise, you must wait until the pigs leisurely get out of your path. Next is, perhaps, a mud hole at a corner before you turn into the narrowest street you ever passed through. The chauffeur must be very careful or he will knock the wares off the shopkeeper’s outside shelves. Swarms and swarms of people fill almost every available space, while the driver must be careful not to kill the babies who toddle in the way.
When you are on the next corner, you must be careful not to bump the baby camels. I saw more camels than I ever saw in all the circuses when I was a child. Yes, many more. In fact you meet them on almost every street, for they are used as beasts of burden. The camel carries practically all the coal. The baby camels are really cute running along behind their mothers.
Do not think that we did not enjoy some of the beauties of spring found in Peiping even though most of it is behind walls. Apple blossoms, cherry blossoms, lilac, wisteria, lavender and white, and other gorgeous flowers were to be seen. Springtime in China is almost a dream. Springtime in the States is beautiful, but you usually do not find so many blossoms at one time as you do here in China. The roses were actually blooming May first. All in nature is so beautiful that I am sure that China would be one of the most beautiful countries on earth if there were not so many dirty Chinese in it.
When we were in Peiping we were in several traffic jams caused by a funeral procession. I wish you could see one of these. Now I wll tell you a little about a funeral procession in general. Well, before you can have a funeral someone must die. Usually when a man reaches the age of sixty his son or sons will buy a coffin for him. If the father moves several times, he transports his coffin from place to place. Some even build their own graves, and when all is considered, Peiping funerals are a most expensive affair. When it is quite certain that a man must die soon, a particular dress is put on him. As soon as the person has died, he is removed to the principal room of the house, while a white screen is placed before the corpse. The relatives weep behind the screen while friends “kowtow” before it. “Kowtow” means to bow several times, or kneel and bow.
Chinese people have the belief that all furniture in the next world is made of paper, consequently they spend much money in burning paper “goods” as a gift to the dead. As soon as the person has died they will burn two paper coolies and a sedan chair to carry him to heaven. If the dead man had a car, they burn a paper automobile and a chauffeur.
The relatives now go to a man called the “ying-yang- sheng” who is supposed to be a clerk of both worlds and he is to decide upon the proper time for burial. Now, if the people are poor, he decides in a hurry, for there is no money in waiting. But, if the people are rich, he usually keeps them waiting, at least a month. The father of one of our teachers died this year and his body was kept in the house almost a month.
White is the color of mourning for the Chinese. White overcoats are worn by the wife or husband and all the children. You can easily spot all the mourners in the funeral procession.
An oil lamp is kept burning near the corpse for they believe that if there is no light the ghost may lose his way. From time to time the children tap an urn to urge the ghost to hurry to the other world so the gods will not blame him for the delay.
On the third day they have a service early in the morning when they welcome the ghost back and in the evening they give him a send-off. In some cases the corpse is placed in the coffin on this third day, but frequently this is done on the first day and the coffin is closed on the third day.
The prices of coffins for well-to-do people range from $500 Mex, while poor people have a wooden box painted black and the very poor have none at all, but are wrapped in a mat. These poor ones do not have any or very much of this ceremony either. It is found that many poor people go away from their homes to die on the street so that someone will pick them up and bury them. In fact, three died directly in front of our school within the past six months.
The rich have religious ceremonies every day during the entire time the corpse is kept in the home. It is not a cheap affair for they have their Buddhist priests from the temple and besides all the relatives, whether they be closely related or not, sleep and eat in the dead man’s house for the whole month. The heir must also furnish each one with a mourning gown, which is seldom returned to the owner.
There is one ceremony that is particularly interesting which is carried on in the following manner. A table of choice foods will be placed before a wooden tablet sixteen inches high upon which is written the man’s name and also saying that he is the owner of this soul. The Chinese character for the word “owner” is the same as the character meaning “king” except that it has one dot on the top. All the words on the tablet are black except the dot which must be in vermillion and filled in by the master of ceremonies. Groups of musicians and priests arrive for the ceremony and all is made ready for the distinguished person, the master of ceremonies.
When all is in readiness, the master of ceremonies, amid the silence of death, fills in the dot with a pen dipped in vermillion ink. Then music is played and prayers are chanted while the heir and relatives thank the master of ceremonies. The Chinese who still cling to their old beliefs, fear that if they do not provide this tablet the soul will become a wanderer. The time for this tablet to be kept in the home is three years which is also the time of mourning.
There are other ceremonies held at various times, but I will mention only the one in which the children of the dead man sleep with him. They sleep on mats near the casket. Then comes the day for burial.
This day is considered the most important. Poor families usually have only four coolies to carry the casket which is placed in a catafalque of the most glaring colors. Usually red is the most outstanding color. Poles are crossed beneath the catafalque and by means of those the collies carry their burden. One day I was out at the edge of our own city here and I saw four coolies running at full pace down the road carrying a casket to the cemetery. An old-style carriage followed in which there were a few mourners.
In Peiping, though, it is quite different, especially in the case of the rich. The casket, after it is swept off with a new broom by the chief mourners, is carried in the small carrier as far as the broad street and wrapped in red embroidered silk. The heir leads the procession by carrying a flag of white paper. The one funeral procession we saw must have been that of a mother for a woman’s picture was carried in a miniature arbor. Before this were carried the paper servants and furniture which I spoke or before.
The order of that procession, which is the ordinary manner of arrangement, was as follows: First, we were suddenly in a jam of people. For a moment I could not sense the situation for we do not see such elaborate affairs in Tsingtao. Then we spied at some distance the casket carriers and we knew what was coming. The first jam consisted of relatives and friends who had white paper chrysanthemums pinned on their black jackets. Coolies carried scrolls which were presented by friends and relatives. The male mourners walked just before the casket. They wore long white garments. The women ride behind the casket in carriages. Elaborate processions are at least a mile long. The musicians and Buddhist priests form an important part of the procession. I wish you could hear the music they play. Since the Western world is greatly influencing the East, particularly in music, you can expect to hear most any melody. I heard the tune: “There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight,” being used in one of these funeral processions. I forgot to mention that a license must be obtained in order to have a funeral procession or the police will not permit the casket to pass the city gate. It seems to me they ought to have one street reserved for funeral processions and let it be known as “Dead Man’s Avenue.” Still people seem to enjoy looking at these processions. Crowds of urchins follow to pick up the great amount of paper money that is thrown into the air. Movie directors from foreign lands come to Peiping for the special purpose of filming a sight like this and one who visits Peiping surely must see a funeral procession, before his visit is considered complete.
I really think it is time for us to leave Peiping, but before we go, I must tell you about the hospitality the good Benedictine Sisters showed us during our six-day stay with them. We felt very much at home with these Sisters and many a merry chat we had with them about the folks back home across the pond. They gave us much of their time and attention and the Sister Superior accompanied us on most of our visits. We will never forget their kindness.
At four o’clock on the afternoon of April twenty-eighth we bade farewell to the Sisters and the ancient city and boarded the train for Tientsin where we were to finish our work of visiting schools. Before I tell you about the last school we visited, I want to tell you what we saw of the remains of the fight between the Japanese and the Chinese. Our lodging place was, as I told you, in the French concession, which borders the Japanese concession where the fighting took place. The Japanese police station still has its front fortifications in the form of bags. I suppose filled with sand. There are small brick-line holes for the guns. Many of the houses have bamboo erections before and above them. Barbed wire is one tangled mass on iron cross-pieces which are still standing on the streets. For eleven weeks, the Keen Memorial School, which I am now going to tell you about, had no classes. I do not recall having seen any wrecked buildings but we did not see all.
The Keen Memorial School is a school that is owned and controlled by American Protestant missionaries. We met two of the American teachers, two women, perhaps about forty years of age. One of them is Dean of the school and has been in China seventeen years. She speaks Chinese very fluently and also teaches in that language. There is a boys’ school nearby, so they have a Chinese who holds the Principalship of both schools. According to the impressions we received, the school is entirely in the hands of Americans, and consequently, is well managed. These two teachers whom we met are two of the most interesting foreigners I have met since I came to China. When one considers the leadership power in personalities such as these, it is no wonder that Protestantism has such a strong foothold in China. In connection with this an incident occurred which might well fit here. When we were visiting the National Museum at Peiping we were in company with two students from the University Normal College at Peiping. One was a sister of one our teachers. During the course while we sat down for a few moments to rest, our guide brought up the subject of missionary work in China. One of the students could not speak much English, so she asked him in Chinese concerning our religion. The guide’s answer was also given in Chinese to the effect that we were Protestants for America has no Catholics. All Catholic missionaries came from Europe, particularly France. To the average Chinese, America in regard to religion means Protestantism, while France means Catholicity. This guide was quite surprised when I told him that the United States alone numbers over twenty million Catholics or practically one sixth of the total population. Then I went on to tell him that the reason why few American Catholic missionaries came to China was because our own country was a missionary country until a few years ago and in reality it is yet when all the West and South are considered. I told him that even now we could use all our Priests and Sisters at home. The sad fact is that a particular nationality is joined in the minds of the Chinese with the Name of Catholicity. It is for us to break down the idea of nationalism and bring to these people the truth of the universality of the Catholic Church.
Now to return to the Keen Memorial School, I will first tell you about their buildings. The main building appears to be quite old, but it is well-kept, their rooms are large, airy and well-lighted. The science work is all done in the laboratory. The dining room and the dormitories are all very clean. In fact, the entire place speaks of order and good management. Their athletic field is also very good.
The enrollment is only two hundred fifty, and we were told that it never would be many more, for they do not want to have a large school. One of their students is Patricia Koo, the daughter of Dr Wellington Koo, who is receiving so much attention in the daily newspapers on account of his position in the League Commission now in China. It seems that they have only a select group.
In regard to their registration of students, they take the students of any rating from the High Primary, or grades five and six, up through the Middle School. The student is classified after she has taken her entrance examination and placed according to her knowledge of each subject not according to grade. She must pay $5 Mex for each subject in which she is irregular, for her regular subjects are those of the grade in which she is in one of the following subjects: Chinese, Mathematics, and English. The students who are taking irregular subjects must secure extra help and work so that in the end they have finished all the subjects. It is the ideal method of managing the situation in China today, for there are so many students who apply for admittance and who are not up in some subjects and may be far advanced in others for they have been working under tutors at home. Many people will not entrust their children to government schools, consequently, in some places there is no school for them to attend.
The most interesting feature of that school is a moral course they teach. When I asked one of these Americans how they get along with the Bureau of Education in regard to that course they told us that they told the man whom the Bureau sent over to inspect the school that they are in China for moral and spiritual values, and if the Bureau wanted to hinder them in their work they would close their doors and tell the government to do its own work of educating. I liked their attitude and admired their fearlessness. In reference concerning what the Bureau’s answer was she said, “Nothing! They just leave us alone.” This school was registered in 1930 and is famous in North China. It is, surely, true that you need only show the Chinese that you are not a “dumbbell” and they respect you.
From the school we returned to Miss Hsia at Sheng Gung Girls’ School where we were served a Chinese dinner. Wine usually plays an important part in Chinese dinners, but this dinner had none. Four dishes of cold foods were on the table besides the customary chopsticks and small dishes. I cannot recall in what these four dishes consisted excepting I know that one was those famous two-year-old duck eggs. They were sliced in pieces shaped like the separate parts of an orange. The part of the egg that is supposed to be white was green and looked exactly like jelly. The yellow was a deep orange. These eggs are placed in lime and the heat of the lime causes them to change and preserves them in this condition. After these four dishes came courses, courses, and more courses. Since it was on a Friday, sea foods were served galore. I cannot recall all the names of the foods nor the order in which they were served, but I know we had lobster, shrimp, baked sweet fish, fish patties, little round grayish sea animals, bamboo sprouts, rice, Chinese bread, and at least twelve or fifteen other dishes. Then there was a pudding called “precious seven pudding.” Three of the precious seven items were rice, lotus berries and pineapples. Chinese dinners have from twenty to forty courses. I cannot say that I enjoyed all these sea-food, but I told our hostess that I suppose I could become accustomed to them. To tell her we liked everything would not work so well for she would have known that we were not speaking the truth. Sister Florida considered the eating of all these seafoods quite a mortification. The little gray animals all covered with legs were more than our appetites could appreciate. But the generosity and hospitality of Miss Hsia were remarkable. I read somewhere that a Chinese merchant may bargain with you for only a few cents, but the moment he becomes your host he causes you to disagree with him on account of his generosity.
The evening which followed the Chinese dinner saw us bidding farewell to the White Franciscans, who had been so kind and so solicitous about our every need. When we reached the train there was not a place left in the second class, so we were ushered into the first class parlor car. They asked us if we wanted a sleeper, but I told them that we would not take any, for those chairs were very comfortable. There was a large crowd of very noisy young people in this parlor car, but they got off the train at one of the suburbs of Tientsin and we were left alone. I was just dozing off to sleep when I felt something on my wrist. I lifted my arm and there on the arm of the chair was a bedbug taking his supper on me. I killed him and a cousin of his and then moved to another chair. Sister Florida also was molested, but she also moved and we slept soundly most of the night.
It was nearly ten o’clock when we came to the main station at Tsinan, the capital of our home province. Here we decided to stop and go out to a suburb called Hungkialou, where the St. Francis Sisters from St Francis, Wisconsin, are located.
We were just crossing from the train to the depot with all our luggage when suddenly a man stopped before us and said “Passports please.”
I was so overtaken that I said, “Passports. You want to see our passports? Alright.”
I set down my luggage and began to search for those passports. When we packed in Tientsin, I did not think that we would need the passports so I placed them far down beneath other things. Sister Florida says that I was turning pale while I was scrambling for them. Well I must admit that I felt a little pale. At last out came the leather case containing the passports. In the meantime the officer had opened his little notebook. Now the uppermost thing in my mind was not to let the passports go out of my hands for fear he would be impressed by the fact that they had never been visaed in China.
When I had my passport in my hand I asked, “Now, what do you want?”
He said, “Sign your name and address here in this book.”
I did so and he took the book and asked, “What is the number of your passport?”
Without any offer to give him the book I read: “378385.”
He then asked whether or not it had a Chinese Visa to which I answered, “Yes, Chicago, May, 1931.”
My aim was to try to make him believe that would suffice, while at the same time I knew positively that China calls for a visa for interior travel which cannot be given in the States. I do not know whether I succeeded in making him believe anything, but at any rate, he stopped questioning me and started at Sister Florida. I held her passport and did the same as I had done with mine and off we went, happy to think that it was the last city on our route where we could possibly be held up. As a rule, people with any passport difficulty must go to the police station to have matters adjusted.
Hunkgialou is quite a distance, at least three or four miles. A motor car costs $# Mex while a “ma tscha” costs $1.50. I thought a recisha was out of the question for it was dreadfully hot and the distance so great. Well, we took the “ma tscha.” Now, you wonder what a ma tscha is. It is a small carriage drawn by one or two of China’s famous horses that look like frames. I am so sorry that we have no picture of ourselves in that ma tscha. It surely was a sight.
The trip was surely one similar to those made by the “Rough Riders” during the Spanish-American War. Such a shaking I had never had before. The streets through which we passed had a stone missing at very close intervals. Our poor old horse was almost fagged out when we drove up before the Cathedral of Hunkgialou. We went into the church were we received Holy Communion, and then we went over to the Sisters’ Convent. They were quite surprised, for I had not informed them definitely. It was a happy gathering. Every available moment was spent in talking over school work. They showed us their school, the orphanage, the monastery garden and everything of interest. Sister Mercedes who has been in China now nearly three years, demonstrated how she teaches arithmetic in Cinese. Their school is not registered and since they are rather secluded from the big city they have been able to manage without registration.
The Sisters have a nice new Convent with plenty of room for their future native community. Their grounds cover a large space for a number of acres which the Sisters are using in part for garden purposes. They have already planted some trees and I think that when they have the grounds all arranged and finished after several years, it will be a beautiful place. They have a wonderful view of the mountains which are only a short distance from the Convent.
Sunday afternoon we took the train to Chowtsun where American Fathers from Chicago and the Franciscan Sisters from Dubuque are working. These Sisters are those who just came to China last September. They have been studying Chinese all year and are planning on opening a Primary School next year. The Sisters will manage the school, but they will not be permitted to teach very much as the law does not allow the foreigners to teach anything except English and foreign sewing or art in the Primary school. English is taught only in the sixth year. It is quite different in the Middle School where a foreigner may teach any subject either in English language in the Senior Department or in Chinese in the Junior Department provided he knows his Chinese.
Well here in Chowtsun we had a pleasant visit, you may be sure. Those Sisters have one fear in common with us and that is the fear of the danger of falling in a rut in regard to educational ideas. We know we will get old here, but we do not like to get too old before our time. We considered the possibility of having summer school later on.
The next morning we were to take the train for Changtien, about thirty miles down the line on our way home. There is where an American nurse, a Miss Beuhler, from Indiana has charge of a dispensary and an orphanage. It just happened that one of the Franciscan Fathers was driving down to this place in an enclosed truck they have. Two of the hospital Sisters from Springfield, Illinois, were also going to this place, so we all four climbed into the rear of that truck. Roads in China!!! They are much worse than an ocean wave. I must admit that I was actually seasick on dry land. The other two Sisters were also badly affected by the shaking, but Sister Florida is our “Rough Rider” out here. The entire trip across the Pacific did not affect me so much as that ten-mile drive. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the trip. The big source of amusement were the many mules along the way. These mules simply go wild when they hear the motor of a car. They tear loose from their carts, and run pell-mell with their tails straight up in the air. They raise such a cloud of dust that you almost have to stop the car. We came to Changtien just before the noon lunch. Just now there are three Canadian nurses who came from America recently and are helping Miss Beuhler. In interior places like this you see real China. Those interior missionaries have the real spirit to persevere in working in such an environment. In winter they nearly freeze for lack of fuel. Their schools have no stoves. In summer they nearly melt in the heat or are eaten up by fleas and stung by scorpions. It surely takes some courage. There are twelve comparatively young men who are working in that territory. And they are working hard in spite of all the difficulties. One of these missionaries told me that he has fifty missions, numbering two thousand five hundred souls and that he could have three thousand more baptisms if he had help enough to instruct the people. The missionary who works in Chowtsun and the neighborhood has one thousand being instructed for baptism. All this makes me think we are doing very little. Of course, we know that we can never have numerous converts among the richer class with whom we are working, while, on the other hand, our aim is to educate for Catholic leadership.
Our short stops with the Americans in Chowtsun and Changtien were very pleasant. At three o’clock that afternoon we boarded the train to make the last lap of our homeward trip. We were very glad our aim had been accomplished. in fact, we did not expect to be able to visit as many schools as we did. The trip added much to our experience here in the Orient and I hope that my readers will enjoy mu account of it. I am
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Sr. M. Eustella, O.S.F.