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On Death

December 10, 1915: “It is winter now and there are quite a few dead in the streets. In one of the narrow alleys leading off from the Canal near my boat a dead man has lain for two days and no one has bothered. Yesterday some one brought a box and put it beside him but no one has put him in it and I notice one of his hands is crushed where careless passersby have walked on it. In a walk into the Inner City through the Water Gate last night I counted three corpses in the streets. Nobody gives a hang. May be they have the right idea. If a chap is dead they figure that sentiment is wasted & only the relatives mourn, which they do with a horrible racket, true to Confucian precepts. But it makes room for the others. The fearful struggle for existence eliminates any such thing as sentiment from the character of this most stoic of all races. No expression of sympathy or horror ever arises from a Chinese mob. I saw a young man siezed with a fit in front of the ferry house at EhrPu. He rolled from side to side, hitting the ground very hard with his arms. The interested spectators put a big rock on the ground in such a position that when he brought his arms down with full force one of them was crushed on the stone.”


October 3, 1916: “Things are moving along here much the same. There was a murder in a neighboring alley last night to add a little zest to the life of a jaded Standard Oil magnate. The third and not-legal wife (concubine) of a well-known hotel keeper in the alley had been in the habit of entertaining a military detective, or accuser, of General Ma’s troops on nights when her “husband” was away. Her “husband”, the prop. of the inn, suspicioned there was something wrong, so, with two friends, showed up unexpectedly this morning at 4 AM & on surprising the two, he cut a great hole in the man’s stomach and cut his wife’s arm and leg off. There was lot of enthusiasm in the neighborhood. According to the old Chinese law of the Chin dynasty it was all right to kill the wife & the other man under such circumstances, but unfortunately in this case the other man was a soldier under Gen. Ma. They did not catch the hotel proprietor but they got one of his friends who took no actual part and I hear they are going to cut his heart out in the city tomorrow. There was a great crowd of officials and soldiers visiting the place this morning but I got inside and saw the bloody knives, etc. I also saw the woman who was lying up against the wall just where she was thrown last night. Only when I saw her, she was dead, because no one had troubled to stop the blood from coming out of her arm and leg. It is the same old story – details just the same all over the world.”

April 5, 1917: “In northern Kiangsu & Anhwei there has been no rain for many moons so this will be a famine year. You can’t imagine what famine is – when millions of people haven’t any food. I don’t mean only just an empty larder or shortage of chow, but I mean no food or substitute for food at all except grass and an alkaline kind of earth found in the Yaowan country. People die by the thousands and rot in the fields and temples. Those that live become bandits or beggars. You see, the Chinese work the thing a little different from a foreigner. The foreigner eats all the food he has & makes short work of it; either goes to the poor house or shoots himself or something. And then it is only one foreigner. But there are millions of Chinese in a famine year who are going to starve & they see it coming months ahead. So they take all of the grain they have & grind it & make a sort of cereal which they cut in squares. As the weeks pass they will mix this ground grain with green growing things, grass etc. until it becomes after a while a horrible black ball. I have seen lots of these black balls in the Sutsien country. Before winter is over in the famine years they have eaten the black ball and so they haven’t anything except roots and bark & alkaline dirt. Of course they have no money, not even one cash which is 1/10 of ten cash, which is less than one third of an American cent, because they have sold and pawned every rag, stick & utensil they possess long before this. You understand that the overwhelming proportion of the people only earn from 130 to 240 cash per day when times are good & support 8 people on it. So when famine comes and they have eaten their black ball they are like animals & very dangerous. When the green grasses & leaves etc. come out in the Spring the people eat those and then is when most of them die – from the terrible after effects of famine. The whole thing is, of course, very bad for the oil business. The officials usually attempt in some way to alleviate the starvation. But there is such a net work of squeeze that almost no food ever gets to the people & of course there are millions of them. Sometimes Provincial Guilds feed them bean cakes, which are used for fertilizing in southern provinces.”

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