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Province of Kiangsu
June 12, 1915 

Dear Cora: 

I am just becoming acclimated to the life in this city 150 miles up the Yangtse. We are also located on the Shanghai and Nankin [Nanjing] Railway about six hours by rail from Shanghai. I left Shanghai at night on one of Butterfield and Swire’s boats and had a very pleasant ride up this great river. There were only half a dozen people travelling first class among whom were two American missionaries. American missionaries undoubtedly do very good work in China but as specimens of social architecture they are often pretty crude. That was the case with these two. It is no wonder that America is held in such low estimation over here as a breeder of gentlemen when you consider some of the missionaries and the other assorted roughnecks. At any rate the rest of the passengers were of course British and on the way the captain continually kept us informed as to what a low sort we were any way. 

On the Yangtse, which is one of the greatest of rivers, life is pretty cheap. We had on board a political refugee or other sort of murderer who was charged with raising some 20,000 troops and raising cain with Yuan Shih Kai up in Chong Sin. In China you must understand that there is no specific crime for which a man is ever shot. This is due to the fact that they can never locate just what the defendant has done because of the vast network of secrecy and shadow that overhangs any Chinese transaction. So they always shoot a man first and try him afterwards which is undoubtedly the best and only system to employ when you consider that he has undoubtedly committed some crime if not the one most people think that he has, and what does a dead chinaman matter anyway. This is not kidding but an absolute fact. 

At any rate we went past one port where they wanted the big reward that was offered for this man, so prepared some sort of a document by which to authorize his removal from the boat. We hit this port at about five o’clock in the morning and about fifty chinamen from this place swarmed aboard led by a white man. The gunmen aboard the ship refused to give him up and for a while there was the deuce to pay. Finally the ship detectives were outnumbered and the others rushed him ashore. It didn’t make any difference to the Chino as he will be shot anyway. Any man who is against Yuan Shih Kai here is shot and it is the only way to handle the matter. 

All along the river the people live in house boats that emit a ghastly odor. These are very low class as are all the coolie type. They are naked but do not seem to mind the heat. You understand that women do all the manual work here. The sampans are huge ungainly affairs that are painfully propelled by a massive oar manned by two or three women. In the back of the boat under a cool awning sits the lord and master and his friends. You may be very sure he never mans an oar.


Of course the carry coolies of whom there are tens and tens of millions take the place of all vehicular modes of freight and passenger transportation but in his own family even this low caste animal never works a muscle. The women over here rank a good deal lower politically and socially than the dogs that infest the streets of a Chinese city. She has only one purpose in life and that is to get married and provide male children. The family is the great unit in China. Respect of elders is the mightiest command of all, and all your relatives have as great a command on your services as you have yourself. Of course the man has several wives all of whom are expected to give him male heirs. The foreigners term these wives the No. 1 wife, the No. 2 wife etc according to precedence. The only recourse a woman has in China is suicide and very often she plays a dirty trick on her husband’s relatives by killing herself at their door. Yuan Shih Kai has sixteen wives. 

I arrived at Chinkiang at ten at night and found no one there to meet me. You can imagine that was rather a tough predicament for a stranger to arrive in the heart of a great Chinese city alone. For all I knew there might not have been a white man in the whole port except the S.O. [Standard Oil] representatives. Of course there is no English spoken and as the arrival of a boat is supplemented by a terrific turmoil and a great horde of howling Chinese I had something to worry about. That is certainly a pretty tough job for a newcomer and I was feeling pretty low. In most treaty ports, the foreign concession is located on the waterfront but of course that might not have been true for Chinkiang. So I faced the prospect of maybe having to go through the heart of a native city from which a white man, without the proper guide could never come out.


I can not describe a native city to any one who has never seen one as it beggars all description and makes it absurd. It is a fearful maze of 8 foot streets choked solidly with beggars and vendors of all sorts, Chinese of all stages of rottenness and with every disease known to man, sedan chairs, filth and horrible odors, of boundless extent. A man could wander through the festering tunnels of a native city for years and never find his way out and he would probably die of smallpox or cholera during the interim. At any rate that gives you a small idea of the prospect that I faced. It was tough, very tough. However I discovered from the captain that the British concession faced the river and that the Meifoo [Standard Oil] hong was just a step up from the bund. So after fearfully annoying discomfortures I finally got my baggage hauled into a godown surrounded by hundreds of jabbering Chinos and located the hong. It seems that there had been some misunderstanding as to the day I was to arrive which caused the mix-up. 

I found the fellows here to be mighty nice and in fact the day I arrived all the men that are located in the territory were here in Chinkiang. Carney, the manager, is a Cornell man and has been out here five years. Lucas is stationed in a house boat up the Grand Canal which runs into the Yangtsekiang [Yangtse River] here at Chinkiang. Gardner is located up at Pengpu on the Pukow-Tientsin Railway. He is a Yale Sheffield graduate. Killion, a graduate from Boston Tech, is the No. 1 man in Nanking, the ancient capital of China which is about 60 miles from here. However these fellows went back the next day, Lucas and Gardner not to see a foreign spot for months to come. Two days after I arrived a man named Brown came down from Nanking to become the assistant manager here. He is a mighty fine fellow and also a graduate of Cornell. 

Things are run differently on the China coast from what they are at home. Men lead a life of freedom unknown in [a] blightened, benighted country like America. News also travels fast on the China coast and the doings of Shanghai of well known citizens of Hanchow are bandied around at tea fights in Hankow or Wuhu three weeks later. You meet many men who have strange histories but whose past does not seem to bother them at all, and men who have seen a whole lot of funny things along the China coast and in other Oriental ports. People drink a lot of liquor here on the China coast and many you see show it but a fellow with sense will take care of himself. 

Chinkiang is known up and down the coast as being a very beautiful port. You understand that a port in China is not necessarily on the coast or on any body of water at all for that matter but is simply a treaty port. Chungking, 2500 miles up in the interior, is a treaty port. This port has a British concession and embassy. In the concession live the business people of the port who include the following. These include the representatives of the Imperial Customs (only the indoor men not the outdoor men, who have no social standing and cannot belong to the Chinkiang Club), Jardine Matheson Ltd, Butterfield and Swire Ltd (the two great trading companies of China), the Standard Oil Co., the Asiatic Petroleum Co., the British-American Tobacco Co., the local Director of the Imperial Post Office, the secretary of the Municipal Council who is also the Chief of the Concession police and the manager of the Light plant etc.


The British consul is the most important man in the port and lives in the Embassy on the hill. The present consul is named Ottewill and is married to an American. He is a mighty good sort of a fellow. Probably the biggest man in the port is the Commissioner of Customs who has the biggest salary of anyone here. He lives in a beautiful house surrounded by fine grounds. 

There are people of many nationalities here. The postmaster is an Italian with a half cast wife, a Chinese-French combination who has an irreproachable social standing. None of the Standard Oil or the B.A.T. [British-American Tobacco] people are married but the rest are and there are many small children in the port. I forgot to mention the port doctor who is quite a personage in the community but who is on poor terms with meifoo. 

Social lines are very tightly drawn along the China coast. In that respect it is very different from the smaller American communities where most any kind of a human being goes regardless of his position or how he earns his living. The great cities, such as Shanghai, Tientsin, Hong Kong, Pekin have great walls around the different classes but in the interior it is not quite so strict. No where is the tradesman given any standing whatever. You know that there are very great differences in the occupations of Commerce and ordinary trade. A Standard Oil man represents Commerce where as the proprietor of a foreign store is a tradesman. In Hong Kong the most exclusive sets prevail. First comes the diplomatic circle, then the military and naval, then the Commercial and lastly Trade. No tradesman can ever get into the Hong Kong or Shanghai Clubs or into any of the Race Clubs or Recreation Clubs. Thus in Chinkiang the outdoor Customs men cannot get into the Chinkiang Club but have their own Customs Club. It is more or less entertaining. 

You ask where does the missionary come in. The missionary is a very peculiar individual and forms his own society and lives to himself and his family. In Chinkiang there are many missionaries who live in the most comfortable houses in the port located way up in the hills in back of the port, behind the Chinese fortresses. There are about twenty of them and they run hospitals and girls schools and orphanages. I have only seen a couple of them. The only ones that mix at all into the rest of the life in the port are the English ones but the Americans are pretty crude as a whole I guess. The daughter of an English missionary is a stenographer in our office and a rather quaint girl. The missionaries don’t get into the easygoing carefree spirit of the port, don’t approve of American sailors and a lot of things like that. The one or two American missionaries that I have met were very crude indeed and look as though they were a direct importation from Modesto, Cal., but they say that there are some very nice people among them. 

In Shanghai one travels by ricksha or in carriages drawn by little Chinese ponies but in the outports the chair is used entirely. The streets of a native city are much too narrow to permit the use of a ricksha though there are a few here in Chinkiang in the broader and filthier suburban and outskirt streets. Every hong and residence has its chairs and chair coolies and you may be sure that it is very entertaining indeed to be carried along for miles through Chinese streets in a wicker chair, two coolies in front and two behind. You appreciate that everything in China is carried on the backs of coolies who are trained to it from child hood. The Chinese themselves ride in closely covered chairs screened with bamboo but the foreigner does not like that because he does not get over the cholera as easily as the Chinaman. 

I haven’t the time just now to devote to the interesting subject of the Chinaman and his cumshas, squeezes and diseases, all of which are very popular. There are about 200,000,000 beggars in China and 100,000,000 officials. The official works his graft and the beggar works his.


The beggars are great sights and rather disgusting. I have seen some right here in Chinkiang whose noses, ears, and eyes have been eaten away by disease. It is not infrequent to be appealed to by a man, one side of whose face is eaten away and whose hand has rotted off. Here in Chinkiang the beggars lie on the sides of the road with their faces buried in the filth and keep up a shrill, whining lament. Sometimes when their face is rotted they can only moan and crawl on their belly. They are very annoying to the foreigner and are a ghastly blot on a landscape that is already one dirty blot as far as the human element is concerned.


The women and children beggars of whom there are more than the men are also very disgusting. However only a jay would show them any sympathy as they are organized into the strongest union in China and are liable to come aboard your boat and moan in large numbers if any member of the organization is offended. The only way to do is to kick them out of the way with your heel and have your boot cleaned afterwards by your boy.  

I could write for hours on the native cities etc. but I absolutely have not the time at present. The men here say that the only way to treat a low class Chino is to beat him with a club quite frequently, which stunt they put into operation. The only way to handle the better class of Chino or official is to give him a cumshaw for as long as he gets his squeeze he is alright. The whole system of Chinese life is based on squeeze and some time I will tell you about it.  

I have a boy, of course, to whom I pay 13 dollars Mex a month (about 5 1/2 gold) which is 6 too much. He is a fair sort of a boy. Some foreigners pay the Chinos too much and spoil them. A Chino coolie should never get more than 20 cents Mex a day but some of them squeeze more. These boys all speak a variety of broken English called Pidgin English. A fellow really has no physical exertion whatever over here as his boy does everything for him as far as taking care of his things is concerned and running errands etc. My boy would make a good center on a varsity eleven as far as appearance goes but he is mighty meek in spirit. 

A revolution may break pretty soon you never can tell. The fellows here have had some great times during previous revolutions. Great care must be taken not to offend the soldiers from Anhwei Province who are a very scurvy lot. They hang around principally on the other side of the Grand Canal north of the Yangtse but seldom cross Nanking way. Last week they badly beat up a white woman and stabbed her husband in Nanking and the fellows here advise one to go around the villages where they are located as they often shoot on sight. The soldiers here are not a bad lot and in fact are rather mild and benevolent looking. There are several thousand of them stationed in big barracks in three parts of the native city and in the big forts on the hill right above us.


In the last revolution in 1913 the rebels were located on the fortifications on Silver Is. just below the city and all in the big fort on the hill, having driven the northerners away by shell fire from the temple on the north. Early one morning when all sensible Chinese soldiers are asleep, more northerners came down by rail and took the fort from behind. Then there commenced a heavy shell fire right across the Concession and there was hell to pay. All the missionaries were moved down from the hills into the Concession and the gates were all barricaded to prevent a massacre. They say that for three days they shelled across the city which was very annoying to the foreigners. Then they executed 500 rebels on the broad road that runs through the north of the city. Several thousand soldiers encamped in the native city near the south gate of the Concession and refused to leave so the business firms raised 80,000 dollars Mex and paid each of the soldiers 14 dollars whereupon they moved up the Grand Canal to Suchowfu. The British Consul then got the impression that several well known foreign firms were buying soldiers for their own use and there was more disturbance. 

In the filth of the outer city the foreigner has a rather rotten time because the stench is terrible but they say a fellow gets used to it and gets to like it and misses it when he goes away. Sometime I will describe to you a native city or a Chinese farm which really smells very sadly and is littered with naked children and the nearly nude lords of the soil and their women. The engineering features of these farms are very primitive and very interesting and maybe sometime I will draw you a picture of a Chinese irrigation pump. 

I must cease now as I have many things to do. Please write me all the news which I of course will greatly appreciate and also send me a liberal supply of papers and magazines omitting the Saturday Evening Post which I see. I am also writing a long letter to mamma and a short one to tell her about it. Give my love to mamma as conveyed by this letter. 


Province of Kiangsu.

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