Saturday, October 1, 2011


(Century Magazine) Some of the keenest and purest humour and some of the wittiest sallies I have ever heard have fallen from the lips of Chinamen in lower New York. I well remember the amused and contemptuous look with which a Chinaman once said, Melican man savee [understand Chinaman allee same number one fool. Chinaman savee Melican man allee same. Chinaman every time gettee top side Melican man" which does not contain a reference to pugilism, but merely means that in a battle of wits the Chinaman "sees through" the American man, and will come out on the "top side." They are very quick at repartee, and their black eyes will sparkle with amusement and fun if you jest with them, or when they start the ball rolling among themselves. They dwell together for years in the same apartments, happy and comfortable. They minister to one another in sickness, bury a relative or neighbour when dead without calling on public charities for help, and in the case of a relative assume the support of the family of the dead man when he is gone. These people these much-derided people spend hours together in one another's apartments, conversing together, eating together, sometimes smoking the long waterpipe, always with a pot of steaming tea between them. In two years I have seen thousands of such groups, but never yet have I found these men drinking liquor together. I have found them playing games sometimes, but not always, gambling; have found them playing their musical instruments, which are harmonious to them, however much they may lack of melody to other ears; or have found them reading or discussing the last Hong Kong or Shanghai daily; but I repeat I have never found them drinking liquor, or in any degree under the influence of intoxicants. The Chinaman celebrates his wedding, not by a drunken carousal, but by the finest feast that his pocket-book can command, to which not only his immediate relatives are invited, but all who have the slightest claim of friendship upon him. A Chinaman who was recently married in Mott Street gave three large feasts in as many restaurants, entertaining several hundred people at each before he had gone the round of his acquaintances and friends. Yet this man was not one of the most prosperous ones. A child's birthday is like wise celebrated with a feast, the wife entertaining her friends in the family home, while her husband entertains his friends at his place of business or in a public restaurant. A Chinaman trusts his friends to an extent that we would consider almost imbecile. Among them money is loaned without intereet and without any Avritten acknoAvledgment or witnesses. If a man is short and appeals to his cousin or his friend to help him, that friend will divide up without specifying a time for repayment. If the man is sick or poor the creditor, in all probability, will never mention the matter again, and will certainly not ask for its return while the debtor refrains from gambbng or opium -smoking, aud honestly does his best. I have known men to be for a time without employment, and while they were trying to obtain it, if they conformed to the strict moral code of Chinese , they were helped by the various cousins with gifts of money sufficient to support them until work was obtained and not only to support themselves, but their families also. And then, as "turn about is fair play," they were expected to be equally generous with some one else. One amusing incident of Chinese generosity recently occurred under my notice. A man who had been out of work for some time, and had beeu liberally helped by his friends, tried in every possible way to earn money. One day he found an attractive Newfoundland puppy up town, and purchased the dog for a dollar. He brought it home for his wife and baby to see, gleefully announcing that he would sell the puppy for two, free dollar" to some of his countrymen. He afterwards started out, with the dog under his arm, in search of his hoped-for customer. He was soon surrounded by admiring Chinese, and the first man who got the dog in his arms, quite unaware of his friend's financial scheme, begged him to give it to him. Thereupon the would-be dog merchant cheerfully presented the canine to his friend, explaining to his wife afterwards "Of course, he askee dog, me give him. Me no got bad heart for friend." It was perfectly proper that he should make a present of the dog at his friend's request, and he did so without hesitation. Perhaps in these things I need not stoop to contrast tho Chinese with the lower classes of Irish, Italians, Hebrews or Germans, but may go somewhat higher and compare them with the American's, who are the outcome of generations of enlightenment, the progeny of ancestors of strict piety and principles of honesty and integrity, and may point out that in generosity and kindness to his brother the Chinese strangely outstrip us. 'Some of our immigrants become paupers, or dependents on public or private charity in some form, and many others are, or become, criminals. The percentage of foreigners in our hospitals, asylums and penal institutions is overwhelming. But the Chinese make little call upon us for philanthropy, and that only for medical help. Little by little these people are coming to see the superiority of our medical treatment, and in cases of severe sickness they will sometimes turn to our hospitals for help. But they ask no other aid from us. If a Chinaman needs any monetary assistance, his countrymen help him without burdening our public philanthropies. It is not uncommon for the men of one clan, or friends from diiierent clans, to band together to establish a loan fund, every man giving so much towards it week by week. This is loaned to needy men, without security or interest, and when repaid it is loaned again and thus many a man is carried through a sickness or set up in business, ancl outsiders are none the wiser. Let us contrast these foreign immigrants from another point of view that of their value in the labour market. Of late years there has been a constant cry against "Chinese cheap labour." Whatever may have been the price put upon Chinese labour when the great raihvays of the West were built by these people, to-day it is evident to all who have studied the question that there is no such thing as Chinese cheap labour." Chinese laundries charge higher rates than domestic laundries. Chineselaundrymen command higher prices than laundresses of other nationalties. A Chinaman earns ordinarily from eight to fifteen dollars a week and his board and lodging. The white or coloured laundress makes from four to ten dollars a week, without board or lodging. The Chinaman works from eight o'clock in the morning until one or two o'clock at night. Sometimes he washes, sometimes he starches, sometimes he irons; but he is always at it, not tireless, but persevering in spite of weariness and exhaustion. Other labourers clamour for a working-day of eight hours. The Chinaman patiently works seventeen, takes care of his relatives in China, looks after his own poor in America, and pays his bills as he goes along. In the Chinese store ten dollars per week is the lowest sum paid for a man of all work. In a Chinese restaurant the lowest wage paid to a kitchen boy is twenty dollars per month and board. Chinese cooks will not go to American families for less than forty dollars per month, and they rarely ever stay for that sum. This, then, is Chinese cheap labour a cheap labour of which ordinary people cannot avail themselves. But," perhaps you may say, in considering this topic, there are certainly many evils in Chinatown." So there are. Gambling is an evil, whether the gambler be a white, black or yellow man. But to show you that the yellow gambler is at least no worse than the black or the white gambler, I will say that as a Christian missionary I am able to enter freely all the gambling rooms of Chinatown, and go among the men, being treated everyAvhere with respect and courtesy, a thing which I could not do among any other people on the continent. Again, opium-smoking is an evil an evil offset by the use of intoxicants among our natives and among foreign peoples of other climes. Among the opium-smokers I can go with perfect freedom, bearing Christian literature, and with an invitation to our mission upon my lips. But I could not go into an American saloon with the same safety or impunity Among the Chinese I am safe from fear of insult or annoyance, be they good or bad men. It is not so among some white peoples. There the missionary must curtail many efforts and walk with cautious steps. But you say, There is the terrible Hip Shing Tong, the high-binders' society." Yes, even in New York this branch of the evil society exists; but against that let me place the imported Mafia of Italy, the Nihilism of Russia, the anarchism of Germany and Italy and while they weigh one against the other, let us remember that while the Hip Shing Tong may sometimes become the instrument of private vengeance for personal wrongs, tho Anarchist Club and the Nihilist Society hul their death-dealing ways at great social and political institutions, and attack and destroy the pure and innocent without reason or cause.

Star , Issue 5778, 23 January 1897, Page 2

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