Wednesday, July 18, 2012


TOUCHING THE CHINESE.ADOPTING WESTERN IDEAS. THE LIFE OP THE "COOLIE." 'the periodical prominence given to "Things Chinese" would suggest" that the little men from the East are about to come into their own, that is if they have an "own.'' The average colonial knows really little or nothing of the Chinese, and can only associate him with a laundry iron or vegetable basket, but those who have been fortunate enough to have visited Shanghai, Peking, Canton, or Hongkong—the latter a British possession by the way—could almost associate the better class Chinese with any position. Politics in China have always been in a state of chaos, but all their squabbling is done amongst themselves. The world merely looks on and Jills the role of spectator. The life of the Chinese, that is the lower class, is merely an existence, but it is hardly that for those who have the misfortune to belong to the weaker sex. They are indeed faced with a hard world, their world that is. and quite in ignorance of the existence oi better things. they, to all outward appearances, go through happy and contented. Hut the conditions are awful, so awful that only those who luire been in the East can realise. We in New Zealand are much concerned about the housing problem, two persons in one room is, we contend, and very rightly, too, sufficient, but what can lie snid of the conditions where every available inch or foot of ;io,or space is occupied, so much so that it might almost be said the occupants have to "dovetail." w Zealanders have not j yet bad to resort to sleeping in the I streets, but it is an every night sight iv even Hongkong to see the Chinese coolie lying ou the footpaths of the main streets sound asleep with simply a piece |of sacking for a cover. This ia in the "inter. What the order is in the summer tbe writer cannot say. but it must lie even worse, because it is in tbe summer that most of the wet weather is experienced. With the shops opening nt daylight, the Chinaman who sleeps on the footpath gets very little chance of "sleeping in." The average New Zealander. who only sees the well-to-do Chinese merchant, the market gardener, the laundry man, and rends of a Chinese soccer team in Australia, a Chinese band in Wellington, a Chinese play staged iv Auckland by Chinese artistes, and the proposal to hold a Chinese running championship at the Laboijr Day sports might well be pardoned it he gets the impression that all is well in China, and that the lot of the Chinaman is not "too bad." Hut, what an awakening is in store for the visitor. The principal streets are thronged all day long with a shuffling mass of humanity, something similar t<> a busy Friday evening in Karangahape Road. I'edlars, with the inevitable rod and basket on each end. parade the .streets shouting their wares, or it may be correct to say. shouting their wav through the crowded thoroughfare. With one or two exceptions the shops are windowless, the food shops display their goods, most gruesome conglomerations in the opinion of the visitor. Tliere are no butchers', greengrocers', or tishe shops such as we see in New Zealand; all such goods are purchased iv a market. The stench from the market is beyond the European, who would never venture nearer than 50 yards of the buildings, and if he measured it hi,„6elf he would take long strides. The buying is done by Chinese servants, and the purchases of meat and fish arc tied on the end of a piece of (lax, and carried through the streets minus even the semblance of paper. Hut while these items interest the visitor, they do not leave the indelible impression that tbe working conditions of the masses do. It might lie said that all tbe heavy work is done by women and children. In Hongkong there is not a horse, motor truck, or machinery of any kind. Huge logs are sawn up by hand, and tbe same log would be cut 'up and stacked in the yard of a mill like the Kauri Timber Company almost as quick as the Cliiuiunnii would grease the saw. lt doesn't pay the Chinaman to get tbe Yankee habit of hustle, and "John" is shrewd enough to know it. Croat loads of bags of sugar and the like are pulled along the roads by. may be. 40 Chinese, with ropes attached to a large trolly! while little girls, mere children, are dotted here and here along the side of the roads with a 21b hammer, breaking stone. The women do the hardest work, and all day they are to be seen in hundreds, perhaps thousands, with rod nnd baskets carrying sand, bricks, etc.. to where a building is in course of election. So Chinese girls arc employed in shops as assistants; that is an avenue of employment monopolised by the boys, many 'of whom get little more than their "chow" (food), despite the working hours from perhaps daylight (ill midnight. It is true that the" lietter class of Chinese arc adoping western ideas and customs but they have a long way to go before they reach the standard of living enjoyed by iMtiopeaiis generally. Auckland Star, Volume LIV, Issue 221, 15 September 1923, Page 13
DRUG TRAFFIC.BODIES IN RIVER FLOATING corpse mystery. TIENTSIN. Officially no one knows why more than 300 bodies of Chinese coolies were found floating down the Haiho River here last year, or why 150 more have been found this summer in Tientsin's "floating corpse mystery." It is still classed as a mystery, most observers believe, only because it is a by-product of a great international narcotics traffic. Tientsin, thriving crossroads of Far Eastern narcotics dealings, has recently been called the narcotics capital of the world. Subjects involving this international trade are best left alone by Chinese authorities hampered by extraterritorial treaties; are rarely mentioned by the Japanese, who the Chinese say are responsible, and are seldom referred to in anything but confidential official reports by Consular and diplomatic officials of other countries. Unofficially, however, evidence has been pieced together to indicate that many of the victims were narcotic addicts who had been dumped in the river, perhaps before death, to save burial expenses. Several Chinese coolies were arrested recently when cpught carrying the bodies of narcotic addicts toward the rher from the Japanese concession, where hundreds of small narcotic shops exist beyond the reach of Chinese authority. Fee for Murder. In one case the victim was still alive, and was abla to gasp out the 6tory of his migration from a village in the interior in search of work, his learning to use narcotics, and his gradual cnfeeblement. As death neared he was turned over to his pallbearers to be consigned to the Haiho at a fee of 12 cents, the cheapest coffin in Tientsin costs at least 50 cents, and it is Chinese custom that the owner of the property on which a man dies must pay his funeral expenses. While this man's case may not have een typical, the sensation his storv caused was followed by a wholesale clean-up campaign by the Japanese concession authorities. While strenuously denying that Japanese had anything to do with the floating corpses, they, rounded up hundreds of Chinese beggare and narcotics addicts about Japanese and Korean dens and shunted them into the Chinese city. More than 1000 of these vagrants are now and housed by the Chinese authorities: When Chinese publicity brought ilife "floating corpse Tnyeterv" to public attention, the practice suddenly ended. No more corpses' floated to the docks. Auckland Star, Volume LXVIII, Issue 210, 4 September 1937, Page 19

Sunday, July 8, 2012

CHINESE NEW YEAR (All rights reserved.)STRANGE CEREMONIES. By FREDEBICK STTJBBS, FJt.G.S. During my residence in South China I had the somewhat uncommon experience of witnessing the ceremonies observed by the Chinese in their villages and temples at the New Year. The reader will probably be aware that the Chinese celebrate their New Year, which is some six or seven weeks later than ours, with great ceremony and rejoicing. As this season approaches, the sale of clothes, food, candles, incensestk&s becomes very brisk. There is also a tremendous sale of red paper with inscriptions in black paint, to be paeted on lintels when New Year's Day arrives. All productive labour is stoppefl, shops and warehouses are closed for the week, ceremonial visits are paid, family gatherings take place, and if for any reason a Chinese is unable to return home at this season it is regarded as a great misfortune. Financial matters axe straightened out, it being regarded as a matter of honour that all accounts should be paid by the end of the year. or some new arrangement made. That is the reason why there is generally a change in the bank rate at the New Year. Then there is any amount of feasting and noise, and displays of flags, inscriptions, and fireworks, and—l have had personal reasons for knowing— thieves become increasingly active and daring. New clothes are worn, and if a man cannot afford to buy a new suit he frequently hires one. Shops, houses, furniture, etc, are clsaned up; lanterns and good-lnck papers renewed. It is everybody's birthday. A child born in the Old Year, say in November, is regarded as beginning his second year on New Year's Day. In the early morning parents receive tbe formal salutations and prostrations of their children, schoolmasters are greeted 'with obeisances of their pupils accompanied by such exclamations as "I respectfully wish you joy" each child receives a gift of Cash, the smallest Chinese coin, wrapped up in red paper, and tea and sweetmeats are offered in every house. Over the door freeh papere are pasted with such inscriptions as "May the five Blessings, longevity, riches, health, virtue, and a natural death, descend upon the house," or, over a shop, "May rich customers continually enter the. door." Gifts, are often made to dependents, employees and customers. The second day of the New Year is the Ladies' Day, when the women go on excursions into the country. Another day is the Feast of Tombs, when the men-folk go to the graveyards to worship and make offerings and obeisances at their family graves. It would indeed, be difficult for anyone who had not witnessed it, to realise the enthusiasm and gladness surpassing that of any season of the Christian year. suPEKsrmous obskbvances. In addition to these social and family celebrations there are many religious and superstitious observances, and it was some of these that I was specially privileged' id see, and shall now try to describe. On the occasion to which I refer, I learned that on a certain night there were to he great rejoicings and religions ceremonies at the large village of Kong Chuen. I think the villagers felt rather flattered at the idea that a foreigner could be sufficiently interested in them as to travel so vast- a distance. Our guide, an old man who had 'been operated on by my companion, led tbe way to the first temple. Again onr road lay along narrow, mnddy. elevated paths, about two feet wide, with water on either side, and in the darkness one had to be very careful of one's steps so as not to slip into the water. We found the temple a fairly large one, about 80ft In width, with wide, open entrance. Outside were boys holding lighted lanterns; inside there was- an outer court, where food, candles, etc were being sold; and children were, -playing, and fireworks were being made. Passing through this we came to a huge table which ha a heen placed in front of the Ancestral Altar, laden with the offering- of orahippera,—roast pigs, poultry, pieces of meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, ornaments, and smoking incense sticks, all brightly illuminated by scores of lamps and candles. Behind the altar' were the Ancestral Tablets, sixteen rows, one above the other, 'each tablet bearing the name of an ancestor of tbe clan and each row representing a whole generation. is here that ancestor-worship takes place, the worshipper burning incense sticks and bowing before the tablets, each of which, according to his belief, contains one of the three spirits of his forefathers, one spirit being buried with the' body, another imprisoned in the unseen world, and the third in the tablet. This Ancestor Worship is older even than Confucius, and is practised in China by all classes and faitbs, except the Christian. There is an Ancestral temple in nearly every village, and it is believed that the Ancestral spirits may return to the abodes of the living and reward or punish them for their faithfulness, or neglect, in offering tbe necessary sacrifices. On either aids of tbe central tier of tablets, described above, were hideous wooden idols, also with burning candles, incense, and offerings in front of them] and on the wails pictures describing the deeds of deceased heroes. Leaving this temple we' made our way, led' by otir guide, to a second temple. This was at the other end of the village and it was no easy thing to pick our way along the narrow paths and amongst the mud holes, heaps of rubbish, and filth of every description. In the parte illuminated by lanterns we could see the ruins of. many honees that had been destroyed by the great flood of 1915, and, here and there, great fish-ponds. These ponds are common in South China, being made by the villagere for breeding fish and are very profitable. Just before we arrived at our destination we had to pass through a narrow passage. Here we saw several large fires lighted, women tending them. These were to frighten away evil spirits and purify the paths for the idols who were jabout to traverse it. Then there was a great shouting, a blaring of month instruments, a beating of drains and gongs, and hundreds of men and boys rushing along, almost sweeping us off our feet. These constituted the advance guard of the procession. men, rushing along at their utmost speed, with loud shouts and beating of gong* and with innumerable torches and lanterns, came, at brief intervals, Auckland Star, Volume LIII, Issue 95, 22 April 1922, Page 24

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A CHINESE WEDDING IN CHRISTCHURCH.—Mr. and Mrs. Joon Choon Tat (centre) after iheir wedding at St. Michael's Church, Christchurch, on Saturday. The bride was attended by her two sisters, Misses Ruby and Jessie Chung, with Hazel Chung as flower girl. Mr. Percy Chew Lee was best man and Mr. L. Bing groomsman. Auckland Star, Volume LXVII, Issue 250, 21 October 1936, Page 9