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On Interpreter Cheng

January 24, 1918: “I think that you would like to meet brother Cheng, if only to study his very peculiar character. All Chinese who speak [English] and thereby become employees of foreign firms soon adopt a more or less scornful attitude towards the rest of their yellow brothers, particularly the country rustic, and patronize them quite considerably. But Cheng is even funnier than most of these birds as he is a very smart Chinaman indeed with a lot of extra character, which, while it is undoubtedly more or less crooked, is undoubtedly forceful towards other Chinamen. For instance, Cheng has a terrific scorn for the plebian and particularly the simple hick of the country type, the poor boob who always crowds around a foreigner in the provincial town and gapes like a sick sheep, apparently without a human thought in his head. Cheng will be talking to me, and without changing his tone and in the most matter-of-fact way apparently without rancor he will slam some gawking rustic across the head with his cane and will continue talking undisturbed. It is certainly funny what the Chinese will let one of their own race get away with on his nerve. Cheng has the utmost intolerance for the usual thickheadedness of the interior Chinaman, and if they can’t see through a project right away his disgust is certainly very apparent but the Chinese, no matter what his position is, does not seem to get sore about it. Cheng and I will be walking along the street in some native town followed by the usual procession of several hundred native kids and if one of them gets in our way our worthy friend will grab him by the neck and throw the kid against the nearest brick wall in the most nonchalant and indifferent way you ever saw. The plebian is nothing in Cheng’s young life. He is certainly a peculiar bird. He is considerably older than most of the foreigners he is liable to travel with in this Company and so is very liable to be patronizing with them from the depth of his vast experience but I can get along with him all right.”

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